An article on Mashable titled, “Facebook Makes You Smarter, While Twitter Makes You Dumber” caught my eye a couple of years back. Dr. Tracey Alloway of Stirling University was quoted as saying, “On Twitter you receive an endless stream of information, but it’s also very succinct. You don’t have to process that information. Your attention span is being reduced and you’re not engaging your brain and improving nerve connections.” Alloway studied youth and their use of Facebook and found that the social network platform actually increased their working memory and improved IQ scores. The study fascinated me. So, I hopped on a plane and went to visit her. Here is a video clip from the interview with Alloway talking about the benefits of engaging in online social networks.
The original news story on Dr. Alloway’s study from the UK Telgraph also mentions that excessive texting is associated with lower IQ scores.
While filming a documentary, I flew out to B.C. to sit down and chat with Canadian author and educator, Ian Jukes about education in the 21st century. I met up with Jukes at his Penticton office where he was giving an on-line presentation to teachers in Alberta. Green chroma key screen behind him and web cam in front, his enthusiasm and passion for education was immediately apparent. I was pleasantly surprised and extremely thankful that after his full morning session Jukes had the energy to chat with me for over 2 hours on camera. A strong advocate for educational change in the 21st century, Jukes took the time to focus on information fluency and to highlight some of the key points from his book, “Literacy is Not Enough.”
As school approaches, I’m reminding myself not to get thrown back into the chaos of being constantly plugged in. It has taken me two months to get back to paying single-focused attention to the events going on around me. In July, my idea of unwinding meant surfing the net and answering messages while watching TV. By the time I got to the cottage we rent every summer, I couldn’t even allow myself to just sit on the beach and enjoy watching my children, the waves, or absorb some sunshine. That’s even without a signal going to my cell phone. I had to read book after book, fiction and non-fiction, to focus my wandering mind. I took walks every morning and night to calm my nerves. By mid-August my heart palpitations had finally calmed down.
Now I look to another busy year of teaching Communications Technology to high school students and teacher candidates, working towards the paperless classroom, and continuing my research on teens and technology, and I know I must find good and efficient daily coping methods. While filming a documentary for my Masters I talked about stress and technology with Dr. David E. Meyer of the University of Michigan and with Linda Stone, former executive of Apple and Microsoft. I put together a short video on how stress builds and what it does to us, as well as coping methods.
Dealing With the Stress of Living in a High-Tech World
Dr. David E Meyer and Linda Stone
On September 14, 2010 I was interviewed on two CBC morning talk shows about my documentary. I discussed how as a result of my research, I am allowing students to use cell phones in the class room so that I can teach them proper social etiquette, digital citizenship, and help them learn how to manage their compulsion to text through cuing their attention. By the time I drove back to Kitchener, I had two messages from CTV asking to do a feature on teens and texting and a story on how I handle cell phone use in the classroom. The next day, while I was taping CTV’s Provincewide the Toronto District School Board announced it would be reviewing their policy on banning cell phones in the school. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was then asked to weigh in on the issue and supported the Board’s decision, saying schools should be open to using cell phones in the classroom. The CBC called me back and asked me to participate in their radio talk show syndicate circuit for the following day. After CTV spent the morning in my classroom taping footage for the news story, I went home and spent 3 hours on the phone speaking with 11 talk show hosts across Canada. A special thanks goes out to Neil Andersen for sending me a copy of one of the live recordings from St. Johns.
CBC Ontario with Wei Chen -September 14, 2010
CBC Metro Morning with Matt Galloway -September 14, 2010
CBC St. Johns -September 16, 2010
CTV Kitchener -September 16, 2010
Please keep in mind that restricted use is the first step in teaching students to become self-regulators. It is the only way to draw their attention to their own habits and open a space for discussion. Gradual release of responsibility follows.
Social Media in the classroom has become a hot issue in education. I’ve talked to several teachers who want to create opportunities for students to communicate using the same technological platforms teens have already grown accustomed to. I interviewed Microsoft Social Media Researcher and Harvard Fellow, danah boyd about how teens connect using social media and asked her to suggest some tips for teachers wanting to use these platforms. I also spoke with Educational Researcher Dr. Tracey Alloway from Stirling University in Scotland about the benefits of social media in Education including the building of working memory.