Why do students surf the internet (or doze off) in class?

In his book Brain Rules, author John Medina reports on empirical observations of student’s classroom attentiveness.

What did he find?

Student’s attention level “naturally” takes a dive approximately 10 minutes into a class session.

This is “natural occurrence” that is linked, in part to body chemistry … and to “mental habits” developed by the current generation of web and channel surfers.



OK, that’s the problem … what’s the solution?


First, what the solution is not.

Old school techniques like yelling “pay attention” or “put your cellphone away” don’t work.

Those methods methods merely compound the problem by adding a layer of irritation on top of the boredom.

The remedy?

Borrowing from factory studies that indicate workers boost their productivity for short  periods whenever environmental stimuli change (e.g. brighter, colder, louder) ….

“Instructors need to introduce variation into a lesson every 10 minutes to regain the students’ attention”.



According to the author, the variation can be accomplished in many ways – changing the delivery style or mechanism, inserting a student activity, prompting discussion.

Interestingly, old-fashioned “cold calls” are decreasingly effective since many students no longer feel ashamed when they can’t answer a question … and, some students are culturally resistant to speaking up in class.

From MTV to TED Talks to the classroom …. think in 10-minute modules …. that’s the unit of measure for attention spans these days.



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