Here at the EdTechist HQ, we are all about the educational technology. But even for us, there is a limit and a time to switch off and enjoy the beautiful June weather. Our digital habits are important to know when to leave the devices behind to enjoy some early summer sun!
As adults, we can have a better handle (well, some of the time) on things like screen time and device use, but we need to help our students (and children) to develop these skills, just as we would with any other device training. All too often, during my commute to work I will pass students who are waiting for their bus only to see their face buried in a phone. While the use of phones is banned during school, as as the bell goes at the end of the day, the devices are out and pupils are getting their dopamine fix. I would consider this to be a significant issue that schools – and parents – need to do more to help pupils develop healthy digital habits.
In this post, I’m going to look at how we can better manage our digital habits and live a life that has a balance in our daily tech use, so that we can enjoy and appreciate what is around us, especially our friends!
RESET THE FOUNDATION
Resetting the foundation is the first step for developing better digital habits and involves establishing a new framework and mindset around our technology use. Here are some steps that we can use to help students reset their digital habits:
Awareness: Start by creating awareness about the current digital habits and their impact on various aspects of life. Discuss the potential negative consequences of excessive screen time, social media addiction, and constant multitasking. Encourage students to reflect on their own digital habits and identify areas for improvement.
Goal Setting: Help students set realistic and achievable goals for their digital habits. These goals should align with their overall well-being, academic success, and personal growth. Encourage them to identify specific behaviours they want to change, such as reducing time spent on social media or improving focus during study sessions.
Education: Provide students with information about the effects of technology on the brain, productivity, and mental health. Teach them about the importance of digital wellness and strategies for maintaining a healthy balance. Explore resources, books, or documentaries that discuss the impact of technology on individuals and society.
Time Management: Assist students in developing effective time management strategies. Encourage them to schedule dedicated time for activities such as studying, physical exercise, hobbies, and social interactions, while setting aside specific periods for technology use. Teach them techniques like the Pomodoro Technique (working in focused intervals with short breaks) to improve concentration and productivity.
Digital Detox: Introduce the concept of a digital detox, where students take a break from screens and digital devices for a defined period. Encourage them to engage in alternative activities such as reading books, pursuing outdoor activities, or spending quality time with friends and family. Provide support and resources to make the detox period more engaging and enjoyable.
Role Modelling: Be a role model for healthy digital habits yourself. Demonstrate responsible technology use, such as avoiding distractions during class or meetings, setting boundaries for personal device usage, and showing the benefits of offline activities. Encourage other educators and parents to do the same.
Establish Tech-Free Zones: Identify specific areas or times where technology use is prohibited or limited. For example, designate classrooms, study areas, or meal times as tech-free zones. This helps create an environment that promotes face-to-face interactions, focused studying, and mindful engagement with the surroundings.
Peer Support and Accountability: Facilitate discussions and create a supportive community where students can share their challenges, experiences, and progress. Encourage them to hold each other accountable for their digital habits and support one another in achieving their goals.
Ongoing Evaluation: Regularly assess students’ progress in developing better digital habits. Provide opportunities for reflection and self-assessment. Adjust strategies and interventions as needed to ensure continuous improvement.
Remember that this first stage in resetting digital habits will take time and effort. The extinction burst in behaviour will mean that it gets worse before it gets better, so it is crucial to success to start this process with patience, empathy, and a focus on long-term sustainable change.
CONSTRUCT ACADEMIC CONFIDENCE
Constructing academic confidence in students involves creating a supportive environment, fostering a growth mindset, and providing targeted guidance and all will contribute to changing those digital habits. Here are some ways to help students develop academic confidence:
Encourage Effort and Persistence: Emphasise the importance of effort and resilience over immediate results. Teach students that mistakes and setbacks are opportunities for learning and growth. Celebrate their hard work, progress, and the strategies they employ to overcome challenges.
Set Realistic Goals: Help students set realistic and achievable academic goals that align with their abilities and aspirations. Break down larger goals into smaller, manageable steps. By accomplishing these smaller milestones, students build confidence and momentum toward achieving their larger objectives.
Provide Constructive Feedback: Offer specific and constructive feedback that focuses on strengths and areas for improvement. Highlight students’ achievements and commend their efforts. Offer suggestions for growth and improvement, while also encouraging them to reflect on their work and set goals for self-improvement.
Foster a Growth Mindset: Cultivate a growth mindset in students by emphasising that intelligence and abilities can be developed through effort, effective learning strategies, and perseverance. Encourage them to view challenges as opportunities for growth rather than as threats. Teach them to reframe failures or setbacks as learning experiences that can lead to improvement.
Differentiate Instruction: Recognise and address individual differences among students. Tailor instruction to their learning styles, interests, and abilities. Providing differentiated instruction helps students experience success and progress at their own pace, boosting their confidence in their academic capabilities.
Provide Supportive Resources: Offer a variety of resources to support students’ learning and development. This may include supplementary materials, online resources, tutoring, or peer mentoring programs. Ensuring that students have access to the tools they need to succeed can increase their confidence in tackling academic challenges.
Cultivate a Positive Classroom Culture: Foster a positive and inclusive classroom environment where students feel safe to take risks, ask questions, and share their ideas. Encourage collaboration and peer support to create a sense of community and promote collective learning. Celebrate individual and group achievements, fostering a culture of appreciation and encouragement.
Teach Study Skills and Strategies: Provide explicit instruction on effective study skills, time management techniques, and organisation strategies. Help students develop methods for setting priorities, managing their workload, and breaking down complex tasks into manageable steps. Equipping students with these skills empowers them to approach their academic work with confidence.
Encourage Reflection and Self-Assessment: Foster opportunities for students to reflect on their learning progress and assess their own strengths and areas for growth. Help them develop self-assessment skills by encouraging them to evaluate their work, identify areas where they have improved, and set goals for future improvement.
Celebrate Achievements: Recognise and celebrate students’ academic achievements, both big and small. This can include academic awards, certificates, public acknowledgment, or sharing success stories with the wider school community. Celebrations reinforce students’ confidence in their abilities and motivate them to continue striving for academic success.
By implementing these strategies consistently and providing ongoing support, you can help students develop a strong sense of academic confidence that will positively impact their learning journey.
EMBED PROBLEM-SOLVING PROCESSES
Embedding problem-solving processes when helping students develop better digital habits is essential for empowering them to navigate challenges independently. Here are some strategies to incorporate problem-solving into our digital habits:
Teach the Problem-Solving Process: Introduce students to a structured problem-solving process that they can apply to digital habit challenges. Break down the process into steps such as identifying the problem, gathering information, brainstorming solutions, evaluating options, making a plan, implementing the plan, and reflecting on the outcomes. Explain each step and provide examples to help students understand how to apply the process to their own situations.
Encourage Critical Thinking: Foster critical thinking skills by asking students open-ended questions that prompt them to analyse and evaluate their digital habits. Encourage them to think deeply about the impact of their current habits, consider potential consequences, and explore alternative approaches. This helps develop their problem-solving abilities and encourages thoughtful decision-making.
Provide Scenarios and Case Studies: Present students with realistic scenarios or case studies related to digital habits. Ask them to identify the challenges, analyse the factors involved, and propose solutions. This allows them to apply problem-solving skills in a practical context and develop a deeper understanding of how to approach different situations.
Offer Guided Practice: Provide opportunities for guided practice where students can work through digital habit challenges with your support. Guide them through the problem-solving process, offering assistance and asking probing questions when needed. Gradually reduce your involvement as students gain confidence and become more proficient in applying problem-solving strategies independently.
Foster Collaboration: Encourage collaboration and group problem-solving activities. Assign group projects or discussions where students can work together to identify and address common digital habit challenges. Collaborative problem-solving not only enhances critical thinking skills but also promotes teamwork and empathy as students consider different perspectives and propose solutions collectively.
Reflect on Problem-Solving Experiences: Incorporate reflection into the problem-solving process. Encourage students to reflect on the effectiveness of their solutions, what they learned from the experience, and how they might approach similar challenges in the future. Reflection helps reinforce the problem-solving process and supports continuous learning and growth.
Provide Resources and Tools: Equip students with resources and tools that support their problem-solving efforts. This may include access to relevant articles, websites, or apps that provide strategies for addressing common digital habit challenges. Help them navigate these resources and encourage them to explore additional ones on their own.
Foster Independence: Gradually shift responsibility to the students, empowering them to take ownership of their digital habits and problem-solving processes. Encourage them to proactively identify challenges, seek solutions, and implement strategies independently. Offer guidance and support as needed, but allow them the space to practice their problem-solving skills autonomously.
Celebrate Successes: Recognise and celebrate students’ successful problem-solving efforts. Acknowledge their ability to overcome challenges, implement effective solutions, and make positive changes to their digital habits. Celebrating their successes reinforces their problem-solving skills and motivates them to continue applying these strategies in the future.
Continuous Improvement: Encourage students to embrace a growth mindset and view problem-solving as an ongoing process. Emphasise that setbacks and failures are opportunities for learning and improvement. Encourage them to iterate on their solutions, seek feedback, and adapt their strategies as needed to continuously improve their digital habits.
By embedding problem-solving processes into the development of better digital habits, students become empowered to tackle challenges effectively, make informed decisions, and develop lifelong skills for managing their technology use responsibly.
STAY THE COURSE
Staying the course when helping students develop better digital habits requires consistency, ongoing support, and continuous evaluation. Here are some strategies to help you stay on track:
Consistent Reinforcement: Continuously reinforce the importance of healthy digital habits in your interactions with students. Incorporate reminders and discussions about digital wellness into your regular classroom routines and activities. This helps to keep the topic at the forefront of their minds and reinforces the need for consistent practice.
Model Desired Behaviours: Act as a role model for the digital habits you want students to develop. Demonstrate responsible technology use and mindful engagement with digital devices. Avoid distractions during class, use technology purposefully, and maintain healthy boundaries. Your consistent behaviour will serve as a powerful example for students to emulate.
Regular Check-Ins: Schedule regular check-ins with students to discuss their progress in developing better digital habits. Use these opportunities to address any challenges or concerns they may be facing and provide guidance and support. Celebrate their successes and help them overcome any obstacles they encounter.
Ongoing Education: Keep students informed about the latest research and insights related to digital habits and well-being. Share articles, videos, or news updates that highlight the impact of technology use on various aspects of life. This helps to reinforce the importance of staying the course and provides them with relevant information to make informed decisions about their digital habits.
Reinforce Benefits: Continually remind students of the benefits they experience by maintaining healthier digital habits. Help them recognise improvements in focus, productivity, well-being, and overall academic performance. This positive reinforcement reinforces their motivation to continue practicing and maintaining good digital habits.
Peer Support and Accountability: Encourage students to support and hold each other accountable for their digital habits. Foster a sense of community where they can discuss their challenges, share strategies, and provide encouragement to one another. Consider implementing peer mentoring programs or group discussions focused on digital wellness.
Reflect and Adjust: Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of your strategies and interventions. Reflect on the progress made by students and seek their feedback on what has worked best for them. Use this feedback to refine your approach and make necessary adjustments to better support their needs.
Collaborate with Parents and Guardians: Involve parents and guardians in the process of developing better digital habits. Share information and resources with them, and encourage open communication about their child’s digital habits at home. Collaborate on consistent messaging and support both in the school and home environments.
Celebrate Milestones: Recognise and celebrate milestones and achievements along the way. This could include acknowledging improvements in students’ digital habits, sharing success stories, or organising special events or activities focused on digital wellness. Celebrations create a positive atmosphere and reinforce the importance of staying the course.
Continuous Learning: Stay updated on the latest research and best practices related to digital habits and well-being. Attend professional development workshops, conferences, or webinars that provide insights and strategies for supporting students in their digital journey. Continued learning allows you to stay informed and adapt your approach as needed.
Remember that developing better digital habits is an ongoing process. Be patient, flexible, and responsive to the individual needs of your students. By staying the course and providing consistent support, you can help them develop sustainable digital habits that will benefit them in the long run.
SOME PRACTICAL RECOMMENDATIONS
This recommendation comes from me as a parent, not just an ICT teacher. This whole process works best with parents, so include them in the conversation and discuss with them the idea of limiting the child’s access to their mobile device. This can be set up within Family settings on Android devices here and iPhone devices here.
Your children may not like this restriction, but when we think about it, there are a number of restrictions we already put in place for children. This one will be just as important. As a parent, I restrict my daughters time on her phone. I believe I need to teach good digital habits, just as much as I need to teach physical health habits – be it for food or physical activity.
Access levels also need to be managed. We hand children a phone, with huge processing power and access to everythin on the web. But your child could be as young as 12, and we’re allowing them access to all levels of the internet. Restrictions can be put in place to manage what they can access – as a parent, we don’t want our children anywhere near some of the filth you can find online, so doing as much as we can for as long as we can must be the way forward here.
Another important aspect is communication and discussion. We should make it clear to our pupils/children that this is a developmental trust issue and one that needs to be navigated together. The topic will be revisited, and if your child/young person knows they can talk to you and be able to express their opinion or request, then it will encourage them in other areas of your relationship also.
The cost of device addiction is still being researched and understood. Social media addiction is now a recognised (but not fully explored) concept. In exactly the same way we would help a student deal with (cyber)bullying, eating disorders, mental health issues, we need to equip our pupils with the skills needed to interact with their digital devices maturely and develop good digital habits.
I have seen in a previous job, where I was working with older students who were placed apprentices how one student lost his job, apprenticeship and place on a course all because he could not put his mobile device down. The issue came to the fore when a senior manager observed him not working and started the disciplinary procedure that culminated with him leaving the company. I found out after all this had happened as course director and could only respond with the acceptance that they ahd followed their company procedures, treated him in the same way as anyone else and there was very little could be done at this point, as he had continually shown a poor attitude towards his employers.
It is the same fate I want to help pupils avoid where I can help it. Our digital devices feature so prominently in our lives now, especially after COVID and lockdown. But that should not deter us or dishearten us at the task in front of us. Our young people need to be able to rely on us to show the right way to maintain good digital habits.
It may need to start with us. We can’t lead if we’re not leading by example. Pupils will watch us and find us to be hypocritical if we say “do as I say, not as I do.” That’s one sure-fire way to lose them.