MANY, many moons ago, my fellow teachers and I used to compare notes about keeping our high school students’ attention for one solid hour.

The math teachers played their advantage to the hilt. Their subjects were challenging enough that students forced themselves to stay tuned. Distraction meant falling off the tour, and the post-lesson quiz immediately proved that.

The literature teachers alternated students’ reading choices from classic pieces to modern writings. Love in the language of Jane Eyre or Shakespeare, or love in a John Denver song.

Chemistry teachers mesmerized or challenged students in labs or in discussions about valence numbers.

Each had their own magic, successful formulas.

The present crop of teachers must find today’s students quite a handful. How to tone down the distractions, especially in this age of texting and social media?

Now, don’t anyone tell me that texting and tweeting during class time are not distracting, that they don’t affect note taking, and eventually explain lower, if not poor, grades.

The young will always justify that theirs is a “multi-tasking” generation, unlike their parents’ days. Whatever.

One thing is clear. Whether the students are in high school or graduate school, texting and social media distract them. Distractions respect no age limits.

Either they’re answering an email, even chuckling, while a classmate is presenting a report. Or scanning real estate properties for sale or needing documentations.

Teachers, take heart. Your students might engage you in a cat-and-mouse chase, but the findings of a study in Ohio, U.S.A on “Mobile Phones in the Classroom: Examining the Effects of Texting, Twitter and Message Content on Student Learning” back you up.

Bent on exploring possibilities of combining texting, tweeting and note taking in the classroom, researcher-professor Jeffrey Kuznekoff instead concluded otherwise.

Students texting or hanging out on social media during class hardly remembered details about the lectures, and earned lower grades than those who paid attention.

No earth-shaking finding, actually. Common sense tells us that when one is distracted, he does not learn much nor accomplish much.

Teachers could adopt some approaches from BPO companies safeguarding performance.

The latter require employees to deposit their phones and other personal gadgets at the front desk or in company-provided lockers.

Only during their break times can they check on messages that might have come in during their work hours, text back or tweet.

BPO employees would not dare the certain fate. Fellow employees tasked to monitor quality assurance actually track violators. This, plus a company spyware that allows authorized managers to view exactly the same page the employee is working on.

The spyware is reminiscent of “Big Brother,” those listening and viewing devices in George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty Four” novel about a totalitarian state.

I don’t espouse that extreme, of course. Rather, teachers serious about students’ learning should best define at the start their housekeeping rules about texting and social media while in the classroom.

(lelani.echaves@gmail.com)