Developing Attention and Avoiding Distractions


As we enter our 4th year as a school that equips our students with a digital device we continue to see many opportunities to help our students and teachers manage their attention capital. I created this video and added it to the Digital Device Passport book to help our community discuss and take strategies to develop habits that we help develop a mindful use of devices.

Ideas and Strategies include:

Start Fresh:

  • Turn off all running apps by double tapping the Home button and swiping up. Yes we know that having Safari open will allow you to bypass the web filtering system. It is also a violation of the Acceptable Use Policy and the Honor Code.
  • Turn off apps before you start a class that you know you will not need for the class. Email is one app that you most likely will never need during a class.

Limit Swipes:

  • Create a study page. Only include the apps or folders of apps you use to study.
  • Drag folders of your most used apps to your iPad dock for fast access.
  • If you use multiple apps to take notes, organize those apps in a Notes folder.
  • Some apps may be only used in certain subjects, so make folders just for those apps.

Add Web Clips:

  • Add Web Clips to web sites you use to study and save these web clips on your home screen. 
  • Organize these links in a folder on your study page. 
  • These links will only go to the web site you need to use which can help you from getting distracted.

Corral the Apps You Do Not Use:

  • Put the apps you never use in folders on the last screen of your iPad so you do not have to swipe past them each time you are looking for an app.
  • New in 2015 – 2016 is the ability to not even install the app. Your teachers will request the apps* you have to have for their class. 
  • *The Required Apps must be installed by all students.

Create a Calming Home Screen:

  • Set your wallpaper and locked screen images to something interesting but not distracting. 
  • Perhaps your class schedule (with your name covered) so you know where your next class is.

If these things do not help, I suggest that the student take a proactive path by giving their iPad to a teacher if it is not needed for the class period as a way to help them with choices. This will help students build up some success with their choices without drawing attention to themselves. There could even be a place in the room that distracted students put the device so it is not within arms or synapse reach.

I do believe we also need to look at how our instructional practices have adjusted to harness the digital device. Boredom is the enemy of attention. I have seen teachers integrate the use of a connected device with questions like: Someone tell me what the color of __________ is or what is a diphthong so students have an active role in the instructional process instead of a passive role.

Of course companies like (based in Durham) will also help by using technology to create distraction free periods since our brain can fail us even with our best intentions.

Digital Device Passport iBook


As we enter the fourth year of our school’s iPad Learning program I put together this iBook so our students and teachers will have access to the many resources that we use to start the year. In the past, these resources were on a private web site that was not easy to find once the year started. It is my hope that having the iBook on student and teacher iPads will help to show everyone how we can utilize the iBooks app more. We have used more digital textbooks each year and will continue to promote them when they are of high quality and fit the needs of the instructor. I think we can improve the use of digital versions for our manuals and handbooks which will harness the power of a more interactive book.

If you are a parent of a student at my school or anyone else who may be interested, I would encourage you to download this free iBook from the iTunes Bookstore. You will need an Apple ID and either an iPad or Macintosh running OS 10.9 which supports the iBooks app. It is not available for iPhone yet as I will need to redo it using the new iBooks Author software in order to make it work. At least that is what I believe I will need to do as I do not have an iPhone to test it on. If anyone does read it on an iPhone, drop me a line and tell me how it worked.

Preparing for a Switch

Amazon com Switch How to Change Things When Change Is Hard  9780385528757 Chip Heath Dan Heath 1

Durham Academy has considered issuing a digital device to students for many years. Each time, the decision was made to not move forward. At this point, Durham Academy is again investigating that a device for our students but now it is seen as more important to not only the mission of the school but also as a strategic need to remain relevant.

I have been asked to present to the Middle School faculty some ideas or suggestions on how we might adjust to this change. After reading the book, Switch, I thought I would try to incorporate their suggestions into this project as indeed it will be a change.

In order to do this we need to prepare for the Switch to connected classrooms where the obstacle of not having access to technology is removed. What would we do differently if we did not have to go to a computer in order to use a computer?

I am reminded of Liz B. Davis’s post on her Plus One Challenge:

I like how she framed her challenge.
The Power of Educational Technology The Plus One Challenge 1 1
This is what I will be presenting to the faculty today.
Brief History:
In 2004 and 2007 I and others investigated deploying a digital device for our students. We were asked to do this by Durham Academy as part of our school’s strategic plan. For various reason, DA never acted on these suggestions, but did begin to use Moodle (2006) and other web-based tools. We have become known for our high-level use of Moodle and other Web 2.0 tools.
To get us started, I want us to watch a movie featuring David Warlick and David Jakes video: 7:25

A couple typical days at DA Middle School in pictures. Over the course of 2 days, I took images of what was transpiring in the computer labs and classrooms I could get to that had students. I also took some shots of lockers and other items that caught my attention.
Take Away:

Motivate the elephant: We are being out innovated by our peer schools. Cary Academy has had tablet laptops for years. Ravenscroft is piloting Google Chromebooks with Google Apps for Education. We must change or look foolish in the comparison between peer schools.

Next Month we will discuss how to Direct the Rider.