Using Extensions To Improve Students’ Online Focus

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I am a complete classroom technology nerd. However, there is one lesson activity that I never thought technology would work for. That was reading for comprehension. When I taught my kids a particular skill like main idea and details, I always asked the students to read the passage and highlight or put a sticky note on the words or phrases they believed to fit that skill. When we tried to use digital resources for reading comprehension, it just never quite worked as I wanted.

focus extensions

I also had lots of parents who used the excuse that their child “didn’t read well off the computer.” I would have loved to be able to say, “Oh, that’s ok. I’m sure every boss your child has 20 years from now will give him his own personal paper copy for every digital document he sends out.” Luckily, my teacher filter didn’t malfunction that day:)

So we need to be preparing them now to be able to work off of both hardcopy and digital copy. Here are a few ideas that may help the students work more efficiently from both.

Problem #1 –Tracking Print

Many students cannot focus on one line of print at a time, even on paper. For regular books and other documents that require reading more than just a short selection of text. I had great success with many students who struggled with that skill, even in the upper elementary grades.

If you have a student (or 7) who still struggles with tracking print offline in a book, try the E.Z.C. Reader Strips™.

To help alleviate the problem with reading from computer screens, try a Google Extension called Visor. When activated, Visor covers the screen with a translucent color filter. There is a break in the colored filter that can be moved up and down on the screen just by moving the mouse. Students are then able to focus easily on a line at a time.

visor for focus
The color and intensity of the filter can be changed to meet the needs of individual children.

visor for focus

You’d probably need a period for the kids to play with the settings. I would have them write their numbers down (or you record them) so that they can’t use the excuse that the filter isn’t right, so they needed to play with it for 10 minutes instead of working. I’m not saying the kids can never change their colors, but this way, you can always say, “Well, maybe you can change the color later, but I know these numbers worked for you before.”

Problem #2–Internet site too cluttered

When kids are reading out of a book, the text doesn’t have to compete with anything else. If they are reading about George Washington, there’s not going to be an ad for race cars on the same page to draw their focus away.

But we know that websites can be full of distractions. Doing research online gives the kids a large amount of information in a shorter amount of time than using only books and encyclopedias gave students of the past (me), so I want to make sure that they are using it effectively.

The extension BeeLine Reader does two things to reduce distractions for the kids as they read online articles.

  1. It blurs out or covers over the ads around the edges.
  2. It changes the font to a variety of colors that change subtly as the reader moves through the text.

If you move the mouse, it takes away the blur over the edges, but you can use the down arrow to scroll down as you read. It will be easier for the kids to focus on the important parts of the page.
Beeline for focus

You can change the settings by clicking on the BeeLine button on your address bar. Once this is installed, it does not turn off, but you can turn off functions you don’t need.

beeline focus

BeeLine Reader is free, but there is a pro version. The free version gives you unlimited use for 30 days and then limits use to 5 per day. Thinking of my classroom, that’s probably enough for most students.

Our students are always distractible. Give the kids a better chance of being successful with online text by using one of these extensions. Go to the Chrome Web Store and search for them by name.

I think I’ll be using these a bit myself!

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