Editorial: Are the NYT games too distracting?


It’s part of a routine: you get to class, open your computer and search to complete The New York Times games, while zoning out the professor’s lesson. But at least you’re getting attendance credit.  

As you survey your classroom, you see you’re not alone.

Sharing your scores for the Wordle and Connections brings about social connectedness for people near and far. Whether you have a group chat dedicated to sharing your scores or send it to relatives as a way to stay in touch while being long-distance, the NYT games bring people together through technology.

And as far as class distractions go, it could be worse. At least these are brain-stimulating activities instead of brain-rot video games. 

When you’re finished with the games, you might find yourself watching the many other computer screens in class displaying the NYT games, becoming further entranced.

Nonetheless, we are distracted during class time. The inability to maintain focus for a full 75 minutes in class isn’t a new phenomenon. 

Regardless of the existence of these games, technology has introduced more distractions in classrooms. 

We believe we can multitask with 10 open tabs and a lecture, but is that fair? 

According to a study published by PLOS ONE in 2013, people are multitasking more than ever because they have a lower ability to avoid distractions. In the case of classrooms, students are using technology as a distraction, with the belief that they can complete these brain-teaser activities, and take in enough content from the lesson simultaneously.

And our attention span has been decreasing over time. This is in part because “accelerating ups and downs of popular content are driven by increasing production and consumption of content, resulting in a more rapid exhaustion of limited attention resources.” 

Divided attention is an issue we face in the classroom — and it affects our information retention and recall.

A study published by Taylor & Francis Online in 2017 concluded that divided attention in the classroom reduces long-term retention of the classroom lecture, which in turn, negatively impacts unit exam and final exam performance. 

We want to do well in our classes for many reasons, but sometimes we aren’t thinking about long-term retention when we’re set on solving the Connections.

To better retain the attention of the students in front of them, professors also need to engage students in their lessons. Introducing other methods of teaching besides solely spewing information can aid with the decline in student attention. This could include testing the students throughout the class on their knowledge or demonstrating a topic visually. 

Getting students to actively collaborate with each other and also teach their peers can be another way to increase dynamic learning. Who doesn’t love a student debate?

Immersing yourself in the lesson and actively participating creates a focus on what is occurring in front of you, rather than behind your screen. Required participation, although it can be uncomfortable for some students, can be encouraged to avoid outside distractions. 

Without active engagement in class, finding yourself gravitating towards distraction is inevitable. Although technology is certainly a distraction, it is only a contribution to the problem, rather than the whole problem, which is typically overlooked.

We attend higher education to learn and get our money’s worth, so take this as a reminder to try to reduce distractions when you can in classroom settings, and hopefully professors can implement more active engagement to do the same.


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