When you have a tool as useful and speedy as a smartphone or tablet at hand, many of us would be tempted to take a moment and “peek” at sports scores, the latest headlines, or the number of “likes” we’ve accumulated on our latest Facebook or Instagram posts. And of course, students are not immune to these temptations. Texts from friends, tweets from celebrities, the latest online game, and myriad other tools and apps all have the potential to distract them from your classroom activities.

Students are, indeed, aware of the fact that, when they’re focusing on their social networks during class time, they’re distracted from where their focus is supposed to be, and they do realize that it can have a negative effect. In a recent survey, Cengage Learning asked students about the ways they (and their classmates) may misuse technology in the classroom. Their responses:

Cengage Learning - Distraction in the classroom


  • 60% claimed that texting is a major cause for distraction.
  • 59% said that students are busy checking out their favorite social-media sites.
  • 45% noted that students are distracted by games.
  • 25% revealed that some students use the search functionality of their tech tools to search for answers (that is, cheat) during class.


Do you think these statements are true for the students in your classes? Would you like, instead, to a find a way to put students’ tech savvy to good use in your courses? Read Cengage Learning’s latest white paper, Transitioning to a More Digitally Focused Course Experience. You’ll learn how instructors are using technology to involve students and get them actively engaged in the learning process. You’ll also read students’ experiences with and opinions about the use of technology in their courses.

»Download the white paper, Transitioning to a More Digitally Focused Course Experience.


How to turn a classroom distraction into a learning attraction

Though tech tools can, indeed, distract students from what you’re covering in your course, you can use those very same smartphones, tablets, and laptops to draw students into discovery, discussion, and learning. Consider the following ideas for your classes:

For more, review our earlier post on great apps for education. You may also be interested in our suggestions for using social media as a solution, not a distraction.

Share your thoughts on technology and student engagement

How do you use technology to engage students? Discuss your ideas and experiences in the comments section below.