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Generation Mental Health

5 Feb

In this week’s EC&I 832 class, part of our discussion centered around generational changes/differences we have witnessed between Generation X, Y (Millenials), and Z, and we also predicted some trends or characteristics we may see in the emerging Generation Alpha.

After exploring some our readings for the week, which consisted of: 2020 Future Work Skills9 Things that Will Shape the Future of Education, What is the Future of Education, and reading the different skills and abilities for students we should focus on building, and how the landscape of education itself and it’s delivery will change and considering our blog prompts, I couldn’t help but get stuck on

Do schools really need to change? If so, in what ways?

I do feel schools need to change. And I am not just talking about how we need to expand from teaching in the same ways, between the same four walls, within the same traditional framework that had been followed for years. I am talking about the way we address, educate, promote and support a very critical issue affecting an alarming number our students – mental health.

mental health

Photo Credit: simmons.kevin4208 Flickr via Compfight cc

I think there is a substantially large gap in where we are at currently, and where the future education trends and future work skills are placing our students. Undoubtedly, we will face many barriers on the road to best educating the alpha generation, but I strongly feel the biggest barrier we will face – and what we so desperately need to address in our education systems right now is mental health.

The reality of student mental health in Saskatchewan schools will shock you

The article above was in the Regina Leader Post this week, and I can’t say I am surprised by the data is presents, as this is the reality I live and teach in. This past week most of us probably noticed a lot of buzz around Bell Let’s Talk day which was on January 31st. Just as it’s name suggests, I love the amount of conversation that was generated on social media around supporting mental health. (Side note: this conversation needs to continue though, one day is simply not enough). This speaks to the positive power and influence social media can generate, and I love to see this aspect of social media positively affecting mental health, when so much of what we are hearing is how technology or smartphones are the cuplrit in this growing mental health ‘epidemic‘ affecting our kids and ultimately affecting our schools.

One of the things that is exciting yes, but scares me a lot when we look at future trends for education is the possibility for diverse time and place, which could greatly affect the physical role of teachers and brick and mortar schools themselves. Relationships matter. Thanks to my classmate Brittany Frick for reminding me of this awesome TEDTalk by Rita Pierson about the importance of relationships, and that every kid needs a champion. (If you haven’t watched it, I suggest you do!!)

Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like. – Rita Pierson

I think as teachers we have a very real and important opportunity to improve our student’s mental health (even in just a small capacity) with the relationships we build with them, the way we interact with them, and most importantly the way we make them feel each and every day they step foot in our classrooms. It worries me – or more so makes me sad, to think that in the future I may not have the same ability to brighten a child’s day – or have them brighten mine – when we are in a room together.

Not only do schools need to look at how they are supporting students (or even teachers) who are already suffering from mental health issues, but I also think it is important that we are teaching kids more about their mental health, and the continuum they will move along, regardless of if they are diagnosed with a specific mental health illness or not. Like our physical health, we all have our mental health to take care of. Some classes lend themselves nicely to explicitly talk about mental health such as Wellness 10, but I think these conversations need to be happening in school curriculum much earlier. Curriculum or policy changes take a lot of time, but there are things we can do in our schools now to shift focus towards improving mental health. (<–Read this for 5 ways)

Mental Health Literacy just like Digital Literacy, is often a murky area that is left untouched by curriculum or schools. I think the growing connection between mental health and how connected our students are is not something we can ignore. A piece of the puzzle in the mental health picture will be for student to understand their digital health and wellness and how this is turn can affect their mental health.

Education has to focus on improving mental health and providing digital citizenship education  for our students if we want to prepare Generation Alpha to have any of these future skills.

 

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Techno Balance-ism

29 Jan

Techno Determinism, Techno Utopianism, Techo Dystopianism, and Techno Progressivism.How about Techno Balance-ism?

These differing ideologies or views of how technology is impacting our world – for both the good and bad, were the topic of our third #eci832 class with Dr. Alec Couros. Although I had never heard of the ‘formal’ names or definitions for these ideologies, I found myself relating to aspects of each one, and recalling times when I have felt technology is wonderful, downright horrible, or our biggest driver for the change we need to actively seek in our world today.

(If you’re lost with what I’m talking about, check out this quick read for some key points on technology utopia vs. dystopia)

The bottom line is that technology drives us, and our world. I have been thinking and reading a lot about digital health and wellness for my major project, and looking at the potential impacts of technology, social media, and ultimately the internet on our physical and mental health. I have realized a lot of the articles I have been reading have been from more of a techno dystopian point of view, highlighting all of the negative impacts of technology, for example on the teenage brain.

It seems that there are more and more people taking internet addictions seriously, and whether it be video games, Netflix, or posting selfies, a.k.a Selfitis, we are told as parents and educators we should be worried about our kids usage. But really, as we discussed in class, we have always been afraid of the impact of the newest and latest technology since long before millennials were born.  The telegraph, the radio, the television, walk-mans– all of these technological advances brought their fair share of fear and criticism for what they were doing to our children and our lives. Change is hard, and changing the way we communicate, do business, socialize, and share information through digital tools has been a change that we have been forced to accept, but not necessarily embrace.

Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: pixelphoto.eu                                    Photo Credit: 2pxSolidBlack
radio  tv        walkman                                             Photo Credit: wuestenigel

It was after class that Alec tweeted this article, by Zachary Karabell (seriously read it!) which re-iterated many of the anxieties we have faced throughout history from Socrates worrying writing would affect the ability to memorize, telephones causing people to no longer visit friends in person, television affecting our sleep, and video games causing aggressive behavior. This scrutiny has now landed on smartphones, and increasingly we see research linking (or trying to link) things like depression, rising cyber-bullying, and higher suicide rates to teens and their usage. What the article does point out though, is that we simply do not have enough data yet simply due to time, nor have there been any controlled study groups that could truly accurately measure these statistics in comparison to pre-smart phone days.

“No matter what we think we know now, we simply don’t know what the long-term effects of smartphones are or will be, any more than generations past could glean the effects of all of those earlier technologies on moods, relationships, and cognitive development.”          -Zachary Karabell

We really do not know what the long-term effects of smart phones and other social technology will be on our current generation of kids. I don’t think we should get into a panic about all the negative correlations and conclusions being drawn, and completely write off technology and ban it from our schools, but we do have a responsibility to our kids, students, and ourselves to think critically about what this technology and increased usage is doing to our health. If you are having a hard time sleeping at night, or waking up feeling exhausted, you might be told to try less screen time in the evenings. Less screen time in the evenings doesn’t mean the powerful lesson your teacher has created at school in which you use your device should be thrown out. It doesn’t mean that the picture your aunt posted from her vacation on Facebook is keeping you awake. The reason you’re not sleeping at night could be completely unrelated to the technology you are using. It just seems so easy to blame technology for our woes. Any maybe technology is the reason for some of our woes. There is still so much we need to learn.

“Information is not like drugs or alcohol; its effects are neither simple nor straightforward. As a society, we still don’t strike the right balance between risk and reward for those substances. It will be a long time before we fully grapple with the pros and cons of smartphone technology.” -Zachary Karabell

There are infinitely good things technology can do to improve our lives, and in the same breath, just as many ways it can be used to do harm. Is there a balance we can seek to find? Is finding humanity in tech – as Alec mentioned and explores – a key way we can begin to wrestle with this idea? Finding balance is a life long struggle in anything we do – home life vs. work life, healthy food vs. junk food, and now online vs.  offline? (Check out Jana’s latest blog post and this article by Nathan Jurgenson for more on that). But it is more clear than ever that that struggle needs our attention.

“Finding balance has never been a human strong suit, but it has never been more needed.” -Zachary Karabell

via GIPHY (Mostly because I love dogs)