Revising and studying for GCSE and A-level unproductively – ineffective use of time spent in library and technology

Revising and studying unproductively – ineffective use of time spent in library and technology

From the story I’ve been telling so far in my last blogpost, I have been looking at two aspects:

  1. Ineffective use of time spent in the library by teenagers
  2. Distraction of a smartphone and other aspects of technology

In case you have not read the previous blogpost, here is a link to it.

See the link here to the previous blogpost in this series

As far as aspects of modern technology is concerned, I have an ideological position. I promise not to whinge   too much, but I’ll give you two quick reasons why a smartphone is more of a liability than an asset to young people these days – specifically when it comes to revision for examinations. Here are my reasons:

  1. I see too many bright young people, with an impressive knowledge, who do not do well in their exams because they do not write in a way to convince the examiner to award marks. Most exams are done using a pen to write on a paper. Using a computer or, if you can’t help it, a smartphone to revise or find information is necessary, but practising writing on paper is vital for exam success
  2. In reality, as young people interact with their mobile phones or other devices, a message of some sort will inevitably pop up and distract them. “Stopping and starting” is a time waster and reduces concentration; focus is vital for exam success

In case you wish to read more about the above, please see my blogpost article “The curse and blessing of technology…”

Argument for studying in the library and technology and its advantages

Neither going to the library or using a smartphone is necessarily a contradiction to effective studying or doing well in the exam. In fact, they are both useful tools for success; it is just how one chooses to use them. Too many people confuse efficiency with effectiveness.

As for going to the library, it can provide a welcome break from the school, office or home environment – where there are a thousand and one possible ways for distraction. Even travelling to the library can be a chance to get away for a short time and switch the brain off and allow it to rest for a short while. If you can find a quiet place inside a library, where you can sit and focus for about 90 minutes at a time, it can be very empowering and you feel well-accomplished afterwards. If one can try and sneak in three or so 90-minute sessions, with 20 to 35-minute breaks in-between, in one day, it can be a very effective and a productive use of time.

For a smartphone – a good start is for young people to turn off their phone or put it on aircraft mode and turn off all notifications at key times – like before going to bed or when studying. Another strong ideological position I have is about using a smartphone as a calculator. Again, this is an extremely distracting behaviour and I am known as a teacher for adopting a zero-tolerance position on this. There are many reasons why mobile phones are not allowed in the examination room and I think they should also not be allowed in the classroom or in study areas. As for the last point, it is extremely difficult to police and, given the fact that mobile phones, these days are also used as an alarm to wake us up or to remind us of things to do, it will have to be left to the individual to act responsibly.

As a parent and a teacher, we have to make decisions about each individual child – on whether to allow them to use their smartphone while studying – trusting them that they will put it on aircraft mode and switch off wi-fi and notifications. I’m not going to even go into the issue of listening to music whilst studying, as this is another point of potential conflicts and controversy. There may be genuine reasons to have a smartphone around while studying. I like listening to music while studying or doing a task that includes thinking; however, my idea of the type of music that I think enhances concentration is probably different to the one the teenager has in mind, but I won’t go into all that here!

For me, I think it is better for smartphones, computers or other sources of distraction to be completely out of sight when teenagers are studying. It requires a lot of planning and organisation to make a success of this. If you agree that it’s OK to play music or have some sort of clock in the room while studying, you have two options:

  1. Invest in a radio or a device of some sort that can play MP3s. Preferably one without too many accessories and no internet access. Most teenagers are tech-savvy enough to find a way to download all their favourite music tracks on the device!
  2. Train and trust your teenager to switch their device into a productive mode – aircraft mode, wi-fi off and notification switch off, that’s OK.

I hope you found this blogpost thought-provoking. Please do leave a comment


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