As we speak right now, my Syracuse Orangemen are kicking off their NCAA tournament against 16th-seeded UNC Asheville in Pittsburgh, albeit without our star center Fab Melo (But enough of my rant about losing Melo for the tourney… I got my frustrations out (largely) Tuesday when word spread like wildfire and people frantically started adjusting their brackets).
Ah, March Madness. A month chock full of brackets, bets, booze and bumming (if your alma matter gets out early). It’s also a month characterized by heightened employee distraction and college students mentally checking out of class. For if I know one thing, it’s this: if it is killing me to focus right now on work when I know I could be watching the game at home and rooting on my team, god only knows that the attention span of a bunch of 18-year-olds actually at Syracuse has flown out the window.
We have already heard the reports of how March Madness wreaks havoc on the work place, particularly as employees frantically whip out their laptops, iPods, and iPads for live streaming. In fact, it's been estimated that 2.5 million workers will access online coverage of the NCAA basketball tournament, and those fans will spend an average of one and a half hours a day watching games and highlights. Another survey revealed that more than 40 percent of IT professionals said that the spike in Internet use has affected their office computer operations in recent years, in some cases causing their systems to come to a screeching halt.
One can only imagine the intense level of distraction that is taking place in the classroom, especially this week as the madness kicks off.
So what should teachers do to fight the March Madness madness? Well here’s one approach certain teachers appear to be taking. Last week, during the Big East tournament, a friend that I follow on Twitter thanked her professor at Newhouse, Syracuse’s communications school, for dismissing class that day so that everyone could watch the game instead of being stuck in class. That message was retweeted by many and that status was “liked” by countless number of ‘Cuse fans on her Facebook page.
Do I think teachers should cancel class for March Madness, even when your team is the No. 1 seed? Of course not (sorry Newhouse). But I do think there is a unique opportunity here.
So today, my message is to you teachers. Don’t be shocked when your students pay no attention whatsoever to your pivotal lesson that you have worked weeks to prepare. They are not listening; they are streaming. So perhaps you should teach them about something else, just for this week – about the power of the Internet. The power of apps and the World Wide Web to bring one of the most watched sporting events to your tablet, smartphone or laptop wherever you might be. The power of social networking sites to allow you to share your excitement, despair and exasperation with others.
So here’s hoping for a competitive, good-spirited March Madness season! And Go Cuse J!