Digital Residents or the Distracted Generation? Helping Students to Manage Digital Distractions in the Class and Beyond

This interactive keynote will argue that while technology can revolutionize learning and teaching, it can also interfere with the learning experience and students’ ability to focus. Drawing on recent research, this session will explore methods that help students develop skills to manage digital distractions, and the practicality involved for educators, administrators and institutions.

Technology has great potential to make our life easier, but comes with great responsibility. The digital distraction is becoming a serious issue for young people because they are playing against big companies with psychology teams targeting their attention from every corner of the screen… while at home, on the bus, in school.

A total of 97% of students use their devices in class* for non-class purposes e.g. social media, texts. Around 63% tune out to fight boredom and stay connected. Around 89% of students said that using their devices distracts them

(McCoy, 2016) *between 1 to 30+ times a day

It’s not addiction, it’s fear of missing out – FOMO

Digital nomads, digital residents, smartphone zombies?

Problem is the fact that students also need 23 minutes on average to get back to their work and focus. So, if your lesson is 45 minutes and they were “just occasionally checking their phone” while you were explaining a complex sequential idea – you’ve lost them. Or should I say – they’ve lost it.


  • Banning devices in educational environment
  • Promoting self-regulation

However, this research also concludes that their findings do not discount the possibility that mobile phones could be a useful learning tool if their use is properly structured (Beland and Murphy, 2015)

It’s not the phones that are the problem, it’s the way we use them.
Promoting self-regulation can be beneficial for other spheres of life as well

The ability to focus is a secret element to success that often gets ignored. The more you can concentrate the better you will do on anything, because whatever talent you have, you can not apply it if you are distracted

(Goleman, 2013)

See students as part of the solution, not as a problem.
They want to be and stay concerned, just often don’t know how

There is no such thing as multitasking, the closest would be the process of continuous partial attention which works with routines, but learning doesn’t happen

Promote self-regulation strategies
…and encourage using them at home, request their feedback, facilitate finding what works for them.

● No watch to track time? Use phones on plane mode, face down
● Apply pomodoro technique and give your students 5 minutes for FOMO

Best strategy is to have engaging lessons – make them better, make them purposeful, target. If students are actively learning, they are too busy for Instagram – they are creating content, their own educational content 😁

Some app suggestions:

The Forest App (MORE INFO)
Freedom App (MORE INFO) *Blocks sites across all devices, but internet is still available for work

Looking ahead

Education is still the best tool to prepare people to function in highly complex environments

(Cobo, 2020, p.36)

Watch the whole keynote:

Sophia Mavridi – Lecturer, De Montfort University, United Kingdom

Sophia Mavridi

Sophia is a lecturer, teacher trainer and researcher. She specialises in technology-enhanced learning and foregn language education and in the past she has worked as a primary and secondary school English teacher, director of studies, and examiner. She is currently teaching in UK higher education as well as providing in-service training for institutions and publishers around the world. Her latest co-edited volumes are ‘English for 21st century skills’ and ‘Digital innovations and research in language learning” both of which reflect her great interest in the transformational role of innovative pedagogies in education.

Sophia Mavridi WEBSITE


“Two much of our work had an audience of one”: How social media can be used to create pride in pupils’ work

  • Issue – frear of using it
  • Issue – how to use it to harness its power
Session was packed, curious people filled every inch of the floor

Social media is not for ads
Not to sell your schools ,your teachers
Think Tinder, not Amazon 😀
Share love, connect and celebrate

Fantastic, brave presentation by
Caitlin Atkinson and Anna King, Students from Lanchester EP Primary School


  • Headteacher see negatives, it’s their job
  • Put trust into your staff and try
  • Slow start – don’t expect an instant boom
  • Don’t force people (texting a tweet to coordinator)
  • Settings tweeter on iPads
  • All staff tweet once a day
  • It’s for parents to see
  • fantastic conversation starter for teachers and for families at home
  • Real review for new potential parents
  • Tweet ordinary things
  • Regularly tweet! be persistent!
  • Don’t save it for big or special events
  • Excellent for parental engagement
  • It’s quick and simple
  • Main purpose is to promote students work, not reminders
  • Tweeter challenge for homework
  • Educating parents about digital safety (no names, careful exposure)
  • Management keeps a look and control when away, engages and encourages pupils online
  • Got a first-class trip home after winning an award because of that public exposure
  • One account for the whole school
  • Parent: enjoys the fact that every day there’s something about “how was school” and we can talk about it

With the local authority

  • School ICT conference
  • But they involve children at conference
  • Children lead the event, technology they like is featured, they do keynote
  • Because of tweeter from then they got invited to Bett

“Too much of our work had an Audience of one”

Asking questions about books and characters – connect with authors
Result – Authors were coming to school to visit and talk

  • Skyping with cool people (really cool people)
  • Their homework was viewed from the international space station

Ofsed: Teaches kids how to use technology safely

Some students were disappointed they were visited, so they tweeted about learning. Ofsted liked 😁

Sponsorship from companies

How about letting students create twitter content? In a safe way

Ending a lesson with “what would we tell the world about this topic”

Correction of grammar and punctuation of celebrity tweets – seriously brilliant!

We learn that whatever you figure out or know, you should keep to yourself , it’s your uniqueness. But you will definitely always be unique if hidden in your own little cave

Share and challenge yourself 🙂

Martin Bailey

Martin Bailey

Director, Animate 2 Educate Ltd; Digital Enrichment Leader, Lanchester EP Primary School; Lecturer in Primary Computing, Durham UniversityUnited Kingdom

Follow Martin on Twitter

Martin is Digital Enrichment Leader at Lanchester EP Primary School (Co.Durham) where he teaches Computing to all classes from EYFS ‘ Year 6 and oversees the integration of technology throughout the curriculum. He also runs his own company (Animate 2 Educate) where he delivers pupil workshops and staff training sessions with the aim of ‘bringing the curriculum to life’ through the use of the latest technology. Martin is also a lecturer at Durham University delivering the Primary Computing element of the course to both PGCE and BA students. He has a particular specialism in the use of tablet technology in Primary Education and regularly writes for the educational press and has presented at conferences around the world. Martin blogs each day about the activities that he is trying out in the classroom and has almost 6,000 Twitter followers who look to learn from his ideas.

Caitlin Atkinson and Anna King are Digital Leaders at Lanchester EP Primary School, Co.Durham. They are part of a weekly Digital Leaders club and also have important jobs that they fulfil each week in school. Digital Leaders are trained to be experts in a range of software and digital devices and support not only their peers, but staff members also in ensuring effective implementation of technology across the curriculum. Lanchester EP regularly welcomes teachers from around the North East and Digital Leaders will take part in exemplar lessons showcasing the great ways in which EdTech is utilised within the school. Digital Leaders regularly present and take part in conferences and events around the UK and also act as role models to their peers in matters relating to Online Safety.