Saturday, February 4, 2017

Brains in an i-Tech Digital World

Vulnerable Brains - Digital World and Learning

Students are increasingly anxious without their personal devices, and when they are at hand, they are hard put to forego active engagement with them, even when the immediate environment strongly calls for person-to-person interaction. Adults are demonstrating the same. Our phones beep, vibrate and sing through meetings, parties, and family dinner.  

Brain scans are measuring higher states of arousal attributed to a decreased ability to self-quiet as the human brain speeds up to keep up with digital interaction, and therapists note an increase in hyperactivity, depression, and obstinacy disorders in toddlers, pre-teens and young adults (from the book i-Minds by Mari K. Swingle). 

As educators we are paying attention to emerging studies about i-tech's role in development, studies that show a decrease in an "ability to sustain focus on the normal, the baseline states of observation, contemplation, and transitioning from which ideas spark." (i-Minds)

This is shocking even if we have seen and felt it for some time now, and so somehow knew it before we read it in a study. How can students learn, innovate and create in a world desperately in need of such if their observations skills, capacity to integrate information, and ability to be still and contemplate are compromised? 

In school, students begin note taking or research on their devices with good intentions, and then an alert presents itself on the screen. Their curiosity is piqued and almost without conscious awareness they are exchanging text messages, responding to snap chat, or checking in to a i-game. They explain to us that they are trying to stay focused, yet cannot. 

Even the most capable managers of devices are drawn away at critical points during the school day and at home. Some of our students are spending hours and hours gaming outside of school and then when at school, are unprepared and disinterested. We are making adjustments to the program here at St. Mary's Academy in response, seeking to enhance interactions, discussions, emotional and social IQ's, and creativity. 

Below, I have included a link to an article boldly titled "It's 'digital heroin': How screens turn kids into psychotic junkies." The title is extreme but perhaps in this digital age, it takes extreme to grab our attention. If you would, share what you learn - other articles, research, and books. 

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