Sadly, listening to music in the classroom using the latest portable media players has become a distraction for my students. I’ve always believed that for some students listening to music in the classroom while they do seat work helps them focus on the task at hand. I’ve written about it here, here and here. The idea being that the music my students listen to will create a type of white noise for them that will drown out distracting noises in the classroom like pencils dropping or other students talking. Unfortunately, listening to music on the new portable media players does not reduce distractions and help students focus on their work. On the contrary, the new more sophisticated portable media players have introduced a host of new distractions that lure students away from the task at hand. For example, students who have an ipod touch , can and do surf the web in class, send email, play games, update their Facebook status and text one another as well as listen to music. Less sophisticated portable media players like the ipod shuffle that only play music seem not to be as distracting, but many of my students prefer to use players that let them do more, let them do it all- surf the web, text, play games etc. In September, I’m only allowing my students to use media players that only play music. I found that these players worked well in the past to help my students stay on task.
Let me just say here that I am well aware of the controversy surrounding the claim that listening to music in the classroom helps students better concentrate on their work. More research definitely needs to be done. I can only go by what I see happening in my classrooms. I see students who get distracted easily in class focus better on their work when listening to music. I see students do more work when they listen to music. I agree with Mathew (see post comments) who noted
I’m willing to concede that music does not increase concentration. However, I know that when I have a task to do that I don’t want to do (like cleaning my desk, correcting papers, doing the dishes, etc.) music can wake me up and help me to work faster.
When my students are bored or unmotivated, I find that sometimes music wakes them up and gets them to work for short periods of time.
I too have students who at times are bored and unmotivated- imagine that . For example, not all my students have a passion for algebra. If listening to music while completing their algebra assignments helps make algebra bearable and they stay on track and complete the algebra assignments, then I’m all for listening to music while doing algebra. I’d rather they complete their assignments than not complete their assignments. If however, my students become distracted from completing their assignments because their media players enable them to do all kinds of other things they prefer over algebra like surfing the web, texting, or playing games then I’m all for banning those devices from my classroom. I want listening to music to help students complete their work. I don’t want the devices students use to listen to music to introduce more distractions into the classroom.
photo thanks to amyvdh