Using technology to distract students from distraction

To give a student an iPad is to place him in front of a bay window open to an endless sea of distraction.

Yaros’ course uses an iPad app loaded with a constant stream of course material to keep students engaged.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, eMail, cat GIFs – with a mobile device and a WiFi connection, students have plenty of things to pay attention to instead of the lecture in front of them.

But Ronald Yaros, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland’s Phillip Merrill College of Journalism, is hoping he has found a way to keep students so engaged during a class period that they won’t have time for distraction – by using the very same mobile devices that could lead them astray.

Yaros calls his model a “MEEC,” or a manageable educational environment of collaboration.

Its similarity to the term MOOC is intentional; he’s trying to get the attention of educators who want to use media and technology to improve learning in their courses, but aren’t quite sold on some of the more publicized methods out there.

“MEECs are a large multifaceted approach to a collaborative environment,” Yaros said. “You must have a set of elements that engage students for an entire class, so there is no deviation whatsoever.”

Yaros’ MEEC is an app packed with content specific to his journalism course “Information 3.0.” Throughout a 70-minute lecture, his 60 students are presented with a constant stream of relevant course material on the iPads that have been provided to them.

See Page 2 for details on how, for Yaros’ experiment, timing is everything. Take our poll about mobile device distractions on Page 3.

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