The Use and Misuse of Technology to Aid Individual Study

There is no question that digital technology has revolutionised our ability to study. From the provision of online courses at many of the world’s top educational institutions to the ubiquity of digital devices that allow access to an almost unlimited resource of information online, the modern world of education has changed dramatically over the last three decades.

These technologies, and their associated connectedness can be both a great ally to the endeavour of individual study and one of its most deadly enemies. When used well, digital technologies can be a great help in organising, recording and collating class materials and revising for tests and examinations. Conversely, these same devices can prove to be a major distraction from individual study and have raised the traditional pre-homework procrastination to an art form.

Here are four tips to help you get the most out of your devices, and cut down on distractions:

Keep your files organised and safe

Sifting through piles of papers is part of student life, but trying to organise your notes and worksheets when studying can be challenging and can take up a lot of desk space. The solution? Make paperless notes on a tablet or laptop. Digital files are far easier to organise and they allow you to find information more easily. They are also much better for the environment and will not get damaged in your schoolbag.

The additional benefit of paperless notes is that if you use cloud storage, such as the Onedrive account provided by the school (which you can access using the portal), or others such as DropboxEvernote or Google Drive to save them, you can sync your files across all your devices and ensure that you can still access your files even if your device is lost or damaged.

Revise without killing trees or making a mess

Thanks to technology, you no longer have to spend hours making study flashcards with pens, keyrings and scissors. And you do not have to worry about them blowing away in the wind as you run to class.

There are plenty of free online tools that take flashcards to a new level, such as Tinycards, a great free app available on your laptop, iPhone or Android device.

Block distractions and avoid procrastination while you are studying

Probably the biggest study distraction in the 21st Century is social media. It can be problematic when you need your computer or digital devices to study and your favourite YouTube channels are right there. If you can relate to this struggle, do not worry, there are many online tools available which can help you stay focused on your school work without having to completely disconnect. Two good examples, which are completely free, are ‘Self-control’ for Mac and ‘Cold Turkey’ for Windows.

These tools work by getting you to set the times you want to study and then selecting the programs or websites you do not need for study and know will distract you, such as Instagram. These websites will be blocked, meaning you will be able to stay focused on what you need to do.

Similar tools are available for your mobile devices, such as Zero Willpower for iOS devices.

Set limits for your mobile device usage

While the use of technology can help you study, it can also be beneficial to have some downtime. In Apple’s next mobile operating system release, iOS12 due in Spring this year, they are introducing a tool called Screen Time, which allows users to track, and even limit, the use of their iPhone or iPad. Screen Time creates detailed daily and weekly activity reports that show the total time spent in each app, our usage across categories of apps, how many notifications we receive and how often we physically pick up our iPhone or iPad.

By understanding how we interact with our iOS devices, we can take control of how much time we spend in a particular app, website or category of apps. The App Limits feature allows people to set a specific amount of time that they would like to spend in an app. A notification will display when the time limit is about to expire.

Screen Time can be especially helpful for children and families. Parents can access their child’s activity report from their own iOS devices to view where their child spends their time and can manage and set App Limits for them.

Screen Time also gives parents the ability to schedule a block of time to limit when their child’s iOS device cannot be used, such as at bedtime.

During downtime, notifications from apps won’t be displayed, and a badge will appear on apps to indicate they are not allowed to be used. Parents can choose specific apps like Phone or Books that will always be available, even during downtime or after a limit is spent. Screen Time works with Family Sharing and Apple promise that it will be quick and easy to set up.

For a more in depth look at the upcoming Screen Time feature, please watch the following footage from the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2018.

Mr Alex Borlenghi

Head of Digital Learning and Practice

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