Distracted: Why Students Can’t Focus and What You Can Do About It

James M. Lang. Basic, $30 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5416-9980-9
Lang (Small Teaching), an English professor at Assumption University, delivers an optimistic and useful guide to cultivating student attention. Soothing concerns that digital device dependency is degrading American classrooms, Lang contends that although the human brain has evolved to continually seek out novelty, teachers can harness this urge to get students to do the “hard cognitive work” of acquiring new knowledge. He tracks “anxiety about distraction” from ancient Greece to 17th-century London coffeehouses and the rise of video games in the 1980s, and debunks claims that the internet has permanently diminished human attention spans. Still, Lang acknowledges, “the people and devices who seek our attention have become better at soliciting it from us.” His suggestions for dealing with the proliferation of distractions in the classroom include “context-specific” policies regarding smartphone usage rather than outright bans and employing “signature attention activities” (such as prompting students to write about how the course material connects to their personal lives) in order to restore and renew focus. Lang’s lucid prose and dry wit make for a pleasant reading experience, and his evidence is consistently on-point. Teachers and parents teaching at home will find inspiration and insight in this sterling study of “the crucial connection between attention and learning.” (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 07/31/2020
Release date: 10/20/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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