Technology grows every stronger each year. It is something that we as a society, have built into our lives and can be a very useful tool that will most definitely remain prominent in the lives of generations to come. Technology gives us the ability to take shortcuts and make our lives easier. As a result, the world around us is fast-paced and ever changing. This is an exciting and positive prospect however, I do think that we also need to remember to stop and reflect on the grand scheme of things from time to time.
I wanted to share a video that Nikki included in one of her IB inputs with us a few weeks ago. Some of the statistics are rather mind-blowing and I think it really helps to reinforce just how much of an influence technology has on all of our lives today.
Technology is amazing. Technology is powerful. Technology is a perfect scientific accumulation of algorithms, numerical sequences and databases. In a perfect world, we could use it perfectly. But, as humans themselves are imperfect, its use can never be without flaws.
Technology being a tool to make our lives easier is a positive and encouraging prospect. Although this is something that I do not want to undermine, I personally feel that for most people in my generation, it has become a lot more than that. It has become something that many struggle to live without.
When I talk about the potentially negative effects of technology, I am mainly referring to the internet and specifically, social media. Social media is a platform to connect with the rest of the world, wherever you are. It can be an area for self-expressionism and maintaining relationships with friends near and far. Having said this, it is most definitely not without its faults and in fact, has many negative attributes that I would like to discuss.
Mental health issues are incredibly prominent throughout the UK and we therefore must address some of the factors that are leading to this.
Following a well-being survey conducted by the National Union of Students NI, it was revealed that a shocking 78% of students in Northern Ireland admitted to suffering with mental health problems within the last year. (2017)
A report conducted by The Royal Society for Public Health highlights the pros and cons of social media and shows that there is a direct link between social media and mental health issues.
Don’t get me wrong, I like to post an Instagram photo just as much as the next person. This in itself, is not an issue. The problem arises when uploading the photo is partnered with (often subconscious) stress and anticipation of how many likes it will get, how many comments it will receive, and how quickly this will happen. I know a lot of people who will upload a photo and repeatedly refresh the page, anxiously anticipating the initial few ‘double-taps’.
It is all about balance.
We are lucky to be able to capture beautiful moments that pass us by and keep them in our pockets. It is something that I really enjoy doing and know many people do. That is not the problem.
We are also very fortunate to have the opportunity to contact anyone by simply reaching into our pockets. That is not the problem either.
The problem emerges when people only ever seem to live their lives behind a screen. Yes you can take a picture of a beautiful landscape or an impressive cup of coffee, but perhaps from time to time you should just pause, keep your phone in your pocket, and appreciate the moment.
This summer, I was lucky enough to work at a camp in Canada for 11 weeks. In complete wilderness. With no internet. Some may call that technological detox a punishment. I call it bliss.
I lived in a little cabin with my roommate Jem. We didn’t have electricity but we did use the camp office computer to order some battery-powered fairy lights. They took about three and a half weeks to arrive with Amazon Prime next day delivery but were worth the wait. They made our little space nice and homey. There wasn’t enough light for me to read at night and I obviously couldn’t surf the internet so each night we would just tell each other stories until we fell asleep. Things were simpler at camp. One night we slept on the canoe dock under a meteor shower and silently lay in awe, appreciating how lucky we were to be in that moment. I did of course have my phone with me but I only used it to take about three photos a week and to call home from now and again.
I can’t explain how calm and cleansing life on Canoe Lake was, but I do know for a fact that the lack of social media was a major factor in this. For me, truly immersing myself in nature and appreciating the world around me without a screen necessarily capturing it, is one of the greatest ways to improve my mental health.
I grew up playing outside and with no technology but still later found myself becoming reliant on social media and the internet. This is something that will only become more difficult for young people to disconnect from, as children nowadays are growing up with it being a large part of their lives. This is something that we as teachers will therefore of course need to address in our practice in order to try and combat the mental health issues that social media pressures can aggravate.
How I lived over the summer is of course on the more extreme side of the spectrum, but I have tried to adopt these habits into normal life now that I’m back in the 21st Century. Yes, my phone is a useful tool for me to have. I can still enjoy taking photos and sometimes uploading them for my friends to see. But no, I do not have to scroll through social media before getting out of bed every morning. I do not have to check how many likes my posts are receiving. My phone is not an extension of me and therefore, no harm will come if I don’t look at it for a whole day.
Perhaps this is something that we all need to be reminded of. I used to be fearful that if I didn’t take a picture of a beautiful view or a lunch with a friend, I might forget the moment. If this is something that you like to do, it’s not a problem. However, what I have learnt this year is that if something is truly beautiful and worth remembering, your mind will capture it just fine with no need to tap on a screen to focus on it.
Peter’s Outdoor Learning workshop reinforced a lot of what I have been thinking about recently, and put it in the context of education. The outdoors both sparks inquiry and contextualises content being taught within schools.
Often a picture does not do the subject justice. Take the example of telling a friend about a lovely walk you went on. You can explain it to them through language and imagination rather than always relying on slideshows of photos you take. This allows you to paint your perspective in others’ minds without relying on capturing the perfect moment on a screen. This is something that I would love to adopt into my practice as a teacher. I want to teach children that technology is a useful tool, but you do not always need it to tell a story or fulfill a task. I hope that Outdoor Learning will highlight to pupils that putting a screen down and looking at the world around you can not only relieve the anxieties accompanied with the 21st Century, but open doors for exploration and inquisition.
With 90% of the worlds data having been created in the last couple of years and the amount of new technological information doubling every 2 years, it really makes you think about how different the world will be for children growing up even in the next ten or twenty years. As teachers, we must take advantage of the new and exciting resources we have, but also not forget what is naturally gifted to us in the world.
Our pupils will always be surrounded by addictive games, enticing advertising and constant social media. It is therefore vital in our role as teachers, to remind them that in this fast-paced and modern society, it is sometimes nice to slow down and take a break from it all.