Stout professor managing tech distractions with tech breaks

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MENOMONIE, Wis. (WEAU) -- It's a battle teachers, professors and parents are facing; how do you get a message through when your target is glued to a cell phone?

Texting, tweeting, instagraming, you name it... technology is taking over. With every year, cutting through the digital noise is getting tougher and tougher.

Markie Blumer, an Associate Professor of family studies at UW-Stout, has a unique solution. She encourages technology use in her classroom, but only during short two-minute tech breaks.

"You'll be trying to teach or talk with your students and they'll be looking at their phone, or on their laptop and maybe they're taking notes, but it's really hard to tell," Blumer said, explaining the challenges. "It's really a matter of inattentiveness and disruption."

Looking at some of the research on what students are doing, Blumer says technology bans don't work. Studies show up to 90 percent of students can text without looking and are adept at hiding that behavior.

Also, while many students like to take notes on laptops for speed, written notes help drive concepts home and ensure students understand what they're learning.

"They might do fine on factual assessments, but not on conceptual assessments, so hand written notes really still reign supreme," Blumer said.

She has been researching technology for a long time and co-authored a book called The Couple and Family Technology Framework. Blumer says technology has become a part of our everyday life and we haven't even noticed it.

For educators, it creates a polarized position.

"Either don't let them use technology at all, or let them use technology," Blumer added. "I thought, you know what, I bet if they just had two minutes in the middle of class not really knowing when it would happen, but knowing it will happen, they'll probably be able to stay focused."

In her classroom, Blumer says establishing clear rules early in the student-professor relationship has worked beautifully.

"They'll be a lot more secure in their learning," Blumer explained. "Two minutes, middle of class, then they go right back to learning."

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