Keeping students focused on IT

By Michael Hilkemeijer

Students love to use ICT for their work. In fact, it acts as a fantastic motivator and engages them in a true sense. However, the use of ICT in the classroom for any work comes with the problem that all teachers face today - distraction. Here are my tips on how you can keep them focussed and curb digital distraction in the classroom.


The best solution is one that most teachers do naturally already in their practice – monitor work. It has been used by many teachers including myself for behaviour management purposes.  With monitoring student work with ICT, it is important for two main reasons. Firstly, it is common for students to appear to be usefully occupied with the task when in fact they are working very inefficiently and failing to exploit the potential of ICT.

Secondly, because of the richness of the resource, students may divert from the intended task without it being obvious from their behaviour (Kennewell et al., 2000).  Keeping a close eye on what they are doing is therefore essential and pays dividends.


However, monitoring gives the teacher even greater powers of management when it comes to using ICT in the classroom as it  is the best method of assessing student ICT capability. By this, I mean not just student use of techniques. T

here are in fact five key components which a teacher can assess to accurately determining a student’s capability. Word processors such as MS Word is the most common software that students can use to develop their ICT capability and they mostly use it for their work either assessment or non-assessment items.

So you can imagine the impact it would have on a student if they see a teacher walking around the classroom with some form of a formative assessment method with them. The teacher would have the ability to not only assess their capabilities but to keep their behaviour in check.



Let’s go one further with monitoring now and here is where it comes into its own. By monitoring, you will also be able to determine when it is the best time to intervene as a teacher. This needs be at the critical moments in a student’s learning.

To explain this further, allow me to quote an important piece of text I read once. It stated “a good coach guides a child’s progress through a task by asking questions that focuses their attention at critical points, but leaves the child believing that the plan was his or her own” (Kennewell et al., 2000).

A technique like this is crucial for the effective development of ICT capability. With the use of ICT comes with the chance of students to make the right choice as which technology to use and why. Through effective teacher intervention it is possible to help students develop their higher order skills.  

Teacher intervention needs to be in the form of focusing questions to assist the student in the formation of generalisations. In addition, it best to plan these interventions during an activity at a time when you believe the students have a need for this knowledge. Have the questions pre-planned too, so that when it comes time you will have them ready.