Children ill from school can still participate in learning via avatars

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China are leading the way in the digital revolution happening right now in education. Children too ill to go to school now have access to technology where they can watch lessons from home and participate using their tablets. The Financial Times reports this technology “enhances learning experiences for teachers and children”.

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Here are some interesting articles which relate to the development of technology in China’s education system:

In the U.K. we are pushing similar aids. It is acknowledged by practitioners that new technologies are allowing literacy gaps to be bridged. Dankova and Gina (2011) describes technology as instrumental in allowing children who are unable to access the curriculum, to actively become involved.

Many sceptics say the very fact this robot is marketed as “combatting isolation”, confirms the fear of modern technology being detrimental to our social skills.

Sharon Linde, a researcher from the U.S. claims computers in classrooms prevent children from developing social skills such as leadership, empathy and conflict resolution.

My opinion on this remains consistent. For 3 years, I have been advocating the use of more technology to be integrated into our classrooms. Not only as an aid but almost to the extent that technology can dictate the curriculum. Why are we devoting time teaching children basic metal and woodwork skills (industries which are in decline in the U.K) and no time teaching children coding and software skills (the fastest growing IT sector and part of a £180billion industry)?

In essence, technology is ready to be fully integrated in our classrooms. Why aren’t they? a) funding, b) accessibility & c) teachers do not know how to use them effectively.

Sharon’s argument about computers hindering social skills can easily be broken down. Firstly, we know that social media can act as therapy for young people. It can alleviate stress, enhance confidence and decrease anxiety. In response to it being detrimental to conflict resolution, I must disagree. By teaching children the importance of posting online, it makes them more accountable. This is hugely important when involved in conflicts online.


Is social media bad for you?

Whenever I turn on the TV, read articles from my favourite news outlets or switch on the radio, I am constantly reminded that social networking sites are villains and us, the public are being drained of personal information, positive wellbeing and internal prosperity.

Much research concerns itself with the impact social media platforms have on our children’s mental wellbeing. A recent article by the BBC claimed over 40% of the world’s population use social media. That’s 3 billion users across Facebook, Twitter & Snapchat, among others. Social media now plays a huge part of our day to day lives but could we be sacrificing our mental health in anticipation of our witty and politically correct post being retweeted?

The platforms listed above allow people to comment and vent about their delayed train on their morning commute to their opinions on the POTUS. The downside of this, is the almost endless streams of stress appearing on your timeline, which in turn will increase stress levels. Pew Research Center based in Washington DC found that Twitter was a significant contributor in elevated stress levels as it increased awareness of other people’s stress. Contradictory research actually claims platforms such as Twitter can act as a coping mechanism when stressed. Women were found to be benefitting from lower stress levels when venting on social media.

Positive and negative mood can spread like wildfire on social media. For example, when the weather is miserable, the amount of negative posts increase by 1%. The University of California assessed emotional content from over 1 billion Facebook posts and concluded you are around twice as likely to post a happy post if someone has shared some good news online. If someone shares a negative post, you are 1.3 times more likely to post something negative.

The Journal of Computers and Human Behaviour claim users using more than seven social media platforms are three times more likely to suffer from anxiety. However newer research has now proposed that it may in fact be ‘social anxiety’ as opposed to anxiety caused by social media which is being used as data. I completely sign up with this school of thought. If networking causes Mr A anxiety, spending so much time on social media probably isn’t the best idea.

It’s clear this topic is hot within both the research community and in public opinion. More research will continuously better our understanding of the effects and benefits social media have on their users. Do I believe social media is bad? To universally say it’s bad would be wrong. Many people benefit from social media. However too much of one thing, excessive use and addiction have detrimental consequences for our health and wellbeing.

Screen time linked to better cognition in children

Limiting children’s recreational screen use has been linked with improved cognition. Children aged eight to 11 who used screens for fun for less than two hours a day performed better in tests of mental ability, a study found. Combining this with nine to 11 hours of sleep a night was found to be best for performance.

Researchers said more work was now needed to better understand the effects of different types of screen use. However, they acknowledge that their observational study shows only an association between screen time and cognition and cannot prove a causal link. And it did not look at how children were using their screen time, be it to watch television, play videogames or use social media.

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The start of my PhD journey

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In today’s ever most networking society, we have a generation of pupils that are not only part of the digital age but also the sub discipline of social media. The ubiquity of social media including Facebook and Twitter is no more apparent than in the education industry (see Tess, 2013). The past five years has seen social media finding its way into classrooms across key stage 3 and key stage 4. Despite some progress in the area, Ferguson (2015) reports that many teachers are not implementing any social media strategies into their classrooms. Schools have introduced 21stcentury technology into their teaching with very little, if any alteration to the delivery of information.

Schools have however, changed the learning environment for pupils with much more emphasis on a student centered approach. Glasper et al (2009) claims this new inter-professional approach is the most inclusive and most engaging. Further studies such as Kember (2009)and Junco et al (2013) have suggested that Twitter is the most obvious example of a modern day student centered classroom. 

Despite researchers and academics accepting that Twitter is a valid tool to increase classroom effectiveness (see McArthur and Bostedo-Conway, 2012), it is clear that teachers are not taking advantage. The main reasons for this are outlined by Fox (2013) and include a) the ambiguity of how to implement effectively, b) accessibility to all students and c) does the potential outcome outweigh the additional workload?

Why Twitter belongs in the classroom…

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Parents. who have tried to pry their teenager’s smartphone away at bedtime know that social media can ravage the emotional lives of young people. Children and teens who use social media heavily are more likely to experience anxiety and depressionsleep poorly and express concerns about their body image. As a high school history teacher, I’ve observed how social media create digital distractions in class, since I’m never sure whether students are typing notes on their laptops or updating their Facebook status.

These concerns have led some school officials to ban students from using social networking sites at school. Although the bans are well intentioned, they actually inhibit, rather than promote, educational growth. Despite their potential for misuse, social media tools can also enhance teaching and provide unique learning opportunities for students.

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