“Social networking sites ‘are devoid of cohesive narrative and long-term significance. As a consequence, the mid-21st century mind might almost be infantilised, characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity'” says Lady Susan Greenfield, professor of synaptic pharmacology at Lincoln college, Oxford (Wintour 2009).
At the outset I want to say that, as a future teacher, I am willing and ready to meet my students where they are at. This means any social, familial, cultural, personal, and academic predisposition or situation that affects them. Utilizing that knowledge, my desire is to awaken their curiosity, creativity, and mindfulness.
In short words, I will know my student’s context, respect it, learn from them, and help them grow as learners.
Included in the context of young students is the large and growing presence of digital media and social networks (think YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.). It seems that these pillars of social media are the Guardians of our time, the icons of our technological advancement and achievement. These platforms help us to efficiently remain connected to so many friends and family scattered all over. They are vehicles for efficient daily living, voting awareness, global knowledge, idea pooling, and so many more fascinating things.
But I am bound to ask the question.
Who will guard the Guardians? Who will watch the watchmen?
Digital media and social networks have so much to offer. They are powerful. But how much will they take from us? The following quote has quite a bit to say, and unpack, about the effect of electronics, screens, ubiquitous media and fast-paced social networks.
“If the young brain is exposed from the outset to a world of fast action and reaction, of instant new screen images flashing up with the press of a key, such rapid interchange might accustom the brain to operate over such timescales. Perhaps when in the real world such responses are not immediately forthcoming, we will see such behaviours and call them attention-deficit disorder.” (Greenfield, Wintour 2009)
In Britain, there has been a “threefold increase . . . in prescriptions for methylphenidate, the drug prescribed for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder” (Greenfield, Wintour 2009). The only change large enough in our everyday lives to account for this is the normalcy of easily accessible cellphones, computers, and tablets. We live in the Screen Age. The inception of this Age occurred with the rise of both the computer and internet. Urban Dictionary has a pretty good definition of the Screen Age.
To show the state of our cell-phone usage, here are some figures from the National Post. Saskatchewan is third from the top (and second-highest in percentage scores–must be all those farmers watching YouTube from the combine)
Along with a heightened global community and a massive, accessible knowledge pool, there come side-effects that are not desired. These side-effects are not small. They have to do with daily human-to-human interactions. For teenagers that have high tendencies of self-doubt and problems with self-image, “distancing from the stress of face-to-face, real-life conversation” is attractive (Wintour 2009). The digital screen allows us to step inside a world where we can edit comments, delete posts, display the photos we desire, and limit who sees us and who we are visible to.
In the offline world, personal encounters are “far more perilous … occur in real time, with no opportunity to think up clever or witty responses” and “require a sensitivity to voice tone, body language and perhaps even to pheromones, those sneaky molecules that we release and which others smell subconsciously” (Greenfield, Wintour 2009).
All of this said, I do not believe in complete non-use. Only smart-use. According to the authour of the article, “the solutions, however, lay less in regulation as in education, culture and society” (Wintour 2009).
Smart-use of cellphones, digital media, and social networks means learning how to view the screen world as an augmentation to daily living (I am, after all, writing for an online class using a virtual blog . . . haha. Oh, the irony Andrew!). Yet if it diminishes our mindfulness, social contact, and learning, there has to be a change. I hope to do a part 2 to this blog, because I do not believe that critiques are helpful if all they do is complain. In part 2, I will begin to discuss how technology integration in the classroom can lead to awaken student curiosity, creativity, and mindfulness (albiet only in a handful of words).
Greenwood, J. (2014) ‘Why Canadians are hanging up on their landline phones’ Financial Post Tech Desk, http://bit.ly/1KMkG5v
Wintour, P. (2009) ‘Facebook and Bebo risk ‘infantilising’ the human mind’ the guardian, http://bit.ly/1KLvcdu