TG Escapes Blog
4 Analogue Ways to Engage Digitally Distracted Children
Today’s young people cannot begin to imagine the world before the internet, the i-phone or the selfie. However, there is a growing body of evidence that the sheer power of the machines in every teenager’s hand or pocket (and a great many younger children), the constant hyper connectivity and the relentless over exposure upon social media platforms is having a profound impact upon our children’s ability to engage. Whilst the propensity for kids to multitask is reportedly at an all-time high, there is a wealth of evidence to suggest that attention spans and emotional intelligence are falling.
Baroness Susan Greenfield is a neuroscientist, writer and broadcaster who has studied the impact that the explosive advancement of technological innovation is having upon children and young people. In her TED talk she explains how technology is physically changing the brains of the current generation of students, preventing them from making the internal connections that allow for sustained concentration and the absorption of taught material. In addition, the relentless pressure to indulge in social media activity is having a deleterious effect upon self-esteem and inter-personal skills whilst simultaneously eroding the ability to recognise facial expressions, voice tone and body language which are key to experiencing empathy.
If we are to realise the potential of the minds of the digital generation, then we must engage them. Most schools have long since dispensed with the rule of classroom phone bans as it is simply unenforceable. Here we suggest four ways to help counteract the negative impact of technology upon the brains of today’s focally challenged pupils.
- EXPOSURE TO NATURAL LIGHT
Natural daylight is both full-spectrum and dynamic: its intensity and colour vary with natural time and weather cycles, which serves to synchronise our circadian rhythms and hormone cycles. Most life forms, humans included, depend upon these daily and seasonal cycles of sunlight for general health and well-being. The daily pattern and cadence of natural light serves to keep our metabolism and sleep routine in balance and our mood and energy levels on an even keel. It does not really need to be said that a well-rested child with a high energy level and a positive frame of mind will be more alert and attentive.
In order to ensure that your pupils gain maximum exposure to natural light during school hours, aim to get them outside as often as practicable (mornings are best) and maximise the penetration of sunlight in to the interior classroom space. Ensure all window coverings are fully retracted and that there are no piles of clutter mounting up on window sills. If in the position to be building new classroom space, choose a design that incorporates large windows with dynamic glazing to tame glare and solar heat gain.
On days when the sun is not up to the job, think carefully about the type of artificial light source in the classroom. Generally speaking, artificial lighting is neither full-spectrum nor dynamic and so is unable to provide the natural cues for healthy bio-rhythm synchronicity. However, there are smart daylight simulating luminaire systems available (such as the Thorlux Luminaires used by TG Escapes) that ensure the right amount of light is directed into the right place at the right time.
- INTERSPERSE WORK WITH MOVEMENT
A Guardian Education article a few years ago looked at much of the recent research into the relationship between physical exercise and the brain. Essentially, the hippocampus is at the core of the brain’s learning and memory systems. Research has shown that as people, of any age, get fitter the hippocampus grows. Furthermore, exercise generally enhances physical fitness and can have a significant impact on mood and stress levels. Physical activity has also been shown, in children particularly, to improve attention spans and boost the ability to ignore distractions and multitask. Moving around outside in natural light is even better!
- HANDS-ON LEARNING TASKS
American researchers at the Institute for Educational Advancement, have found that learning through doing allows children to understand the real-world significance of what they are being taught: a task that requires active participation can literally construct meaning. Children learn through all their senses so activities that require movement, talking and listening will stimulate multiple areas of the brain and create connections. This will. In turn, establish a higher level of engagement with any subject matter and a better retention of the material taught. It’s also pretty tricky to clutch, prod and swipe at your i-phone when both hands, eyes and ears are occupied!
- STIMULATE CREATIVITY
Sir Ken Robinson, the researcher, adviser, writer and speaker and one of the world’s leading advocates of the importance of creativity has much to say about the matter in his TED talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity.” In a nutshell, a creative child is more receptive to learning new things and to then apply their new-found knowledge, resulting in improved retention. Furthermore, the ability to express themselves creatively has also been found to play a key role in a student’s emotional and social development.
Creative activities offer rich opportunities for cognitive and language development and also afford the time and space for self-exploration and expression. They stimulate a sense of freedom and joy whilst simultaneously supporting a pupil’s ability to focus and self-regulate. There is no right answer and each student, regardless of their academic prowess, can experience the pleasure of success having undertaken a creative task.
In conclusion, sometimes the old ways are the best ways. Modern technology has profoundly transformed the world, predominantly for the better, but it is taking its toll on the brains of modern youngsters. However, a breath of fresh air and sunshine to blow away the cobwebs, a run-around to put roses in cheeks (and blood flowing through the brain) and a bit of make and do can all help to re-engage the technologically distracted mind.
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