Worth Reading

Below are posts sharing the beginnings of articles related to parenting and digital tools. Please let me know if you find an article that should be shared. 

What is your digital diet?

posted Apr 18, 2016, 5:50 AM by Matt Scully   [ updated Apr 18, 2016, 5:51 AM ]

Jocelyn Brewer, a registered psychologist from Sydney, Australia, has a wonderful perspective regarding how we can create a healthy relationship with the technology we use. Please explore her site focused on digital nutrition. 

Forget 'Digital Detoxing' & Technology 'Addictions': Design an online world which nourishes you.
When you have the basics of a healthy, balanced relationship with technology, you don't need to force yourself offline it in order to find peace. 
Digital Nutrition explores a range of social, emotional and cognitive impacts of our technology use (and overuse!) and provides solutions to help maximize the benefits of devices and avoid the pitfalls. Digital Nutrition considers a wide range of modern issues from an informed psychological perspective.

Intentional Use of Tech

posted Oct 5, 2015, 7:28 AM by Matt Scully

Love this video as a tool to spark conversation with our students about whether things are as bleak as the poet believes and more importantly how intentional is our use of our tools. We can definitely do better and pieces like this that call for us to take action are powerful and needed. How does your use of your tools improve your life? your relationships? your health? How does your use of your tools reduce the quality of your life? your relationships? your health?

5 Digital Parenting Beliefs You Can Safely Kiss Goodbye

posted Nov 12, 2014, 8:06 AM by Matt Scully   [ updated Nov 12, 2014, 8:11 AM ]

online safety

5 Digital parenting beliefs you can kiss goodbye

With so much information going around about what is and isn’t appropriate for our kids to be doing online, it is little wonder parents are confused. Whilst it is a relatively new challenge, it doesn’t diminish the need ensure to be constantly  thinking about technology and devices and how they will fit in to the daily lives of ourselves and our kids. I hear lots of concern from parents, I hear lots of rules parents put in place and I hear a lot about the things parents shouldn’t be doing and the things they should be doing in order to keep their kids safe and responsible with technology and the online world. To help eliminate some of the ‘noise’…here are a few beliefs I hear, that I believe you can pretty much kiss goodbye.

These are the statements that have now been superseded by the advances to the technology and the increased immersion of our kids and ourselves into a world that relies on this technology for a large portion of our information, our entertainment and our social interaction.

Read the rest here. 

Building Trust - PD Digital Citizenship program aligns with others

posted Oct 27, 2014, 8:11 AM by Matt Scully

Below is the beginning of a blog post that focuses on the idea that we need to move from acceptable usage policies to acceptable usage guidelines to develop a culture of trust and transparency. Providence Day has already made adjustments in this direction with the new Digital Citizenship Compass and supporting materials. Read more about why this is important to your students. 

An acceptable use policy is a document that is present in every school district around the country. The purpose of this policy is to provide safe parameters for exploring digital resources and using school-issued devices properly. It also ensures that schools do their very best to block out the darkest corners of the web. And while these policies are effective and required, they have not evolved in their semantics.

From Acceptable to Empowered

Within the development of these school-wide policies, several shifts need to happen. My observation about the need for a semantic shift, probably one of the biggest shifts requited, reflects how acceptable use policies are interpreted by students. Essentially, these policies read more like a legal document rather than a document that students can understand and carry out. Additionally, we need to shift the focus from "you shouldn't do that" to a sense of empowerment around technology. In short, schools should place a positive connotation around technology use.

Some districts have started implementing responsible digital use guidelines or empowered digital use policies. Regardless of the title you choose, it should provide a sense of purpose for using technology beyond the idea that "said devices may get me in trouble." Similarly, this policy should be something that all students can understand and interpret. It should be simple and direct without creating an air of fear when signing on the dotted line.

Continue reading the whole post here.

Protect Yourself

posted Oct 27, 2014, 7:51 AM by Matt Scully   [ updated Oct 27, 2014, 7:59 AM ]

Our conversation about the Protect Yourself compass point focused on the choices students make. It quickly became apparent that many of our concerns stemmed from not knowing exactly what our students were doing online. PD parents and faculty anxiety stems from the time between homework assignments, the cellphone use during homework, or the time off task. As a group we found that the following options while difficult to implement were our best choices:
  1. Make it clear that you should have access to their devices, apps, etc.  and that certain privileges like reviewing apps, reviewing online friend & follower lists, is a parental right. 
  2. Find ways to balance your right to access with their right to some privacy. This is an exercise in building trust and can be challenging. Creating a set of family expectations is great place to start. For families with multiple students it is important to create a graduated set of expectations. Older students need more space and younger students need more guidance. 
  3. Find time to better understand your students' use of their tools. Two suggested readings are Danah Boyd's, It's Complicatedand Catherine Steiner Adair's, The Big Disconnect.
Read more about the Protect Yourself compass point on Providence Day School's Digital Citizenship Resource Guide and join us for our next Parenting in the Digital Age conversation on October 29th at either 8:30 am or 7:00 pm. We will be discussing the Be Real compass point. Everyone is welcome. 

Be Present

posted Oct 1, 2014, 7:54 AM by Matt Scully   [ updated Oct 1, 2014, 7:56 AM ]

At our last Parenting in the Digital Age conversation, we focused on the idea of being present. Parents, faculty, and school leaders agree that it is tempting for technology to cause all of us - adults and students - to become distracted or disengaged from the moment often due to digital devices. A few key points were made and are worthy of repeating :
  1. Being present doesn't have to mean the absence of devices. The important question is if we are using our devices does it enhance the moment? Is the experience better for having had access to the device? 
  2. Conversation with our students about how they are using their devices is essential. Listening to why they use their devices when can help us help them make better choices. It is important that we are open to the idea that their student experience is different than ours in many ways. While challenging, we can find a balance between our experiences, their experiences, and being present. 
  3. Creating a set of family expectations for device usage is a great way to start the conversation with students. Make sure that they are a part of the process. Make some concessions to their needs/wants and set several key non- negotiable items. They need to feel ownership and some control in the process to value the family expectations. 
  4. Modeling the behaviors that we want to encourage in our students is essential. Each time adults behave in a manner inconsistent with the expectations we set for students we undermine any progress made helping our students move toward being present. 
Read more about the BE PRESENT compass point on Providence Day School's Digital Citizenship Resource Guide and join us for our next Parenting in the Digital Age conversation on October 8th at either 8:30 am or 7:00 pm. We will be discussing the PROTECT YOURSELF compass point. Everyone is welcome. 

Note Taking and Screen Time

posted Sep 3, 2014, 8:38 AM by Matt Scully

Over the last few weeks two different articles keep hitting my desk. One is the Oppenheimer and Mueller study about note taking using a KEYBOARD and the other is the UCLA study about screen time. I have a couple of concerns about the way these studies are being used. 

Quick clarification: I firmly believe in managing screen time and helping students/adults find a balance with their digital tools. Second, note taking is essential to learning and students should be taught to find a method that works for them.

First, Oppenheimer and Mueller’s work found “…that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.” There results are not saying students should avoid technology. They seem to be clearly stating that note taking is an activity where the note taker needs to process information and re-frame, re-organize, and work with the data to make note taking useful. The problem is that working from a keyboard is limiting and forces note takers to transcribe. The tool forces the behavior. A tablet device like an iPad, Surface, or Nexus 7 provides multiple ways to take notes. Tablets support multiple input options – keyboard, drawing, photos, and text to speech – and combined with an array of apps to support the varied needs of note takers in different classes. 

While many seem to be suggesting that this study is anti-technology, my take away is that Oppenheimer and Mueller are reminding us what good note taking is and how the tools we use can impact our note taking. 

To me the UCLA study regarding screen time is more worrisome especially because many are not taking the time to read the study. The study compared 51 students sent to an educational camp for five days to 54 students who spent the week in school. Both groups of students took pre- and post tests on recognition of non-verbal emotional cues. Both groups improved their scores. The camp group had greater improvement, but it is worth noting that this group also made more errors than the control group in the pre-tests. The researchers suggest the improvement for the control group is the “practice effect”. The “practice effect” was not applied to the camp group in the discussion on this report which leaves me with more questions than answers about how to use this data. Pre and post test results shown below. 

ucla screen time study

It seems like we are making too big a deal over too small a sample size.  It also seems tough to compare results of students who spent a week in a unique environment versus students who spent their week in a familiar environment. I think I would be sharper after the unique week versus after a standard work week regardless of the amount of screen time I had. 

Again, I truly believe that users need to be intentionally managing their screen time, but finding good information about the true effects of screen time is challenging. My advice to parents is threefold:

  1. Ask questions. Consistently question what your students are doing at their screens. Ask them to share what they are getting from the experience. 
  2. Monitor your own screen time. Try logging your own activities over the course of 5 days. Note what you are doing at the screen, how long you were doing it, and what you got from the experience. Reflect on your experience and the similarities of your students experiences. 
  3. Engage your school in conversation about learning activities that put students at a screen, but don’t just count minutes in front of the screen. Examine the activity and what it takes to complete it. Measure the value of the experience in terms of executive function, higher order thinking skills, or engagement. 

One of the problems with news outlets today is the “sound bite effect” or attention grabbing headlines. Be a savvy consumer and dig deeper. 

NPR: Surrounded By Digital Distractions, We Can't Even Stop To Think

posted Aug 4, 2014, 5:04 AM by Matt Scully

Click here to view original article.

It would be tough to think up a more plum assignment for a test subject: Simply step into an empty room, sit down, and think.

Just think.

But in a study to appear in Thursday's issue of the journal Science, participants found the experience within their own heads surprisingly difficult to manage — if not downright unpleasant.

Stripped of their books, cellphones and other distractions, many, including a majority of men, preferred to instead pass the time by reaching for the sole form of electronic entertainment in the room: a 9-volt battery administering a "severe static shock" when touched.

"It's probably an issue of how we can control our minds and thoughts," says Timothy Wilson, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and a co-author of the study, which attempts to measure the enjoyment found in allowing our minds to simply wander.

That represents a novel approach to the study of human distractibility, in which the "wandering mind" is often itself the distraction: a symptom of our multitasking, digitized culture that interrupts our pleasure reading, test-taking and work lives.

"No one had looked at mind wandering as an end in and of itself," Wilson says.

But as it turns out, we're easily distracted from that too, plagued by a natural impulse to seek out the physical "engagement" wherever we might find it — even if it zaps us.

In the words of T.S. Eliot, we find ourselves "distracted from distraction by distraction."

Wilson says he and his colleagues were initially skeptical of including the shock device as an outlet for subjects to escape their thoughts. Given that participants were warned the contraption would give them a painful jolt, the researchers asked the seemingly obvious: "Why is someone going to shock themselves?"

The most common answers: boredom and curiosity.

Wilson sees that response as a symptom of our animal instincts. "Our minds have evolved to a point where we do have this alternative; we're the only animals that can turn off engagement and turn into our own heads," he says. "But we still have that mammalian brain that wants to engage."

The journey to "my happy place," as Wilson puts it, or a state of enjoyable, wandering thought, usually occurs during activities involving low-level engagement, like when we drive or take a stroll. For many, thinking becomes quite difficult when we're placed in an empty lab room and robbed of even the mildest forms of physical activity.

In a situation like that, we naturally reach for the nearest available source of engagement: sometimes by poking a rudimentary shock device, but more often by whipping out our smartphones.

Wilson notes that the experience of solitary thinking became even less bearable when participants were asked to replicate the experiment in the comfort of their own homes, moving the study from the bare lab room to our modern dens of digital connectivity and distraction.

Although participants were asked to pick a time when they didn't feel rushed and to put away all electronic devices, "all those things were there," he says. "Your phone is right there, and you know you're not supposed to do it."

"They couldn't even go for six to 12 minutes," Wilson says, without succumbing to the pressures of physical distraction. Those results suggest the attraction of our devices may be found simply in their availability, offering a heady escape when our animal brains lack the proper physical engagement.

"If it's there, we'll use it," goes one of the more common laments about our digital culture. But don't blame us; we're only mammals.

Students aren't the only ones struggling with Digital Distraction

posted Jun 5, 2014, 10:40 AM by Matt Scully   [ updated Jun 5, 2014, 10:43 AM ]

NPR's All Tech Considered recently ran this piece on digital distraction and adults. I think it really speaks to having community wide standards and expectations. 

Having a teenager lost in his or her cellphone — texting friends and communicating with parents in monosyllabic grunts — has become a trope of the Internet age. 
But teens are not the only ones distracted by their devices.

Many parents have the same problem. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm one of them.

"Sometimes at night you'll just stand around and ... you'll have your phone out and you'll just type and you'll just stand there," Ella says.A couple weeks ago, my 12-year-daughter, Ella, staged an intervention. She and my wife basically threatened to take my phone and break it.

Ella can be a brutal mimic. And as she describes my distraction, she strikes up my smartphone pose: the phone balanced against my belly — thumbs madly typing away — (as if by holding the phone that way no one will notice that I'm on it).

"Lila's ready to go to bed, everybody's trying to get people to read to them and you're just standing there in the middle of the hallway reading your texts and texting other people," she adds.

Hearing from my oldest that I'm ignoring her little sister stings.

"Has that gotten worse?" I ask.

"It hasn't really changed; it got worse when we moved to California," Ella says.

That was when I started covering technology.

"Do you feel jealous of my cellphone? Do you get mad at it?" I ask.

That earns an eye roll and a laugh.

"No, why would I get jealous of a cellphone?"

"I don't know," I say. "Do you feel like you are competing for attention?"


With that she wins the argument.

"One of the many things that absolutely knocked my socks off," she says, "was the consistency with which children — whether they were 4 or 8 or 18 or 24 — talked about feeling exhausted and frustrated and sad or mad trying to get their parents' attention, competing with computer screens or iPhone screens or any kind of technology, much like in therapy you hear kids talk about sibling rivalry."And Ella isn't the only kid who feels this way about her parent's relationship with devices. Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical and consulting psychologist at Harvard, recently wrote The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age. For her book, Steiner-Adair interviewed more than 1,000 kids from the ages of 4 to 18. She talked to hundreds of teachers and parents.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Great Read: It's Complicated by Danah Boyd

posted May 6, 2014, 4:05 AM by Matt Scully

Anyone who is interested in helping kids navigate the digital world needs to read Danah Boyd's book, It's Complicated. This book delivers a remarkably balanced approach that helps readers understand the needs of teens and why they use some tools. Read a review here.

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