EDUCATION

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

Basic: Perseus. Oct. 2020. 304p. ISBN 9781541699809. $30. ED
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Lang (English, Assumption Univ., MA; Small Teaching) combines theoretical analysis with practical tips on how to cultivate attention in the classroom. Basing his text on the premise that learning occurs in three steps—attending to a new concept, processing it, and being able to retrieve it—Lang demonstrates the interdependence of all three. Recent research sees digital devices as a major distraction for students. To create a balanced and blended learning environment, Lang says that students and teachers should work together on technology policies and goals. He supports his ideas by referring to the theories of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on flow and Edward Deci’s work on self-determination, as well as others. He also provides real-world examples, including his own experiences and that of his colleagues and of his wife, Anne, a kindergarten teacher. Each chapter concludes with a “quick take,” or ideas that teachers can apply. Lang wraps up the book by proposing that classrooms become “retreat spaces” from distraction, places that build communities to support and encourage attention and learning.
VERDICT Every educator, from kindergarten teachers to graduate and undergraduate school teachers, struggles with reducing distraction in the classroom. Lang tackles this problem by offering strategies for students and constructive approaches and tools to encourage attentive behavior.

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