Having just spent two days last week at our respective freshers fairs (on two campuses) it was interesting to gather information from our new, and some older students regarding their general use and thoughts of technology.
I was mainly there to introduce our new students to our Clued Up website highlighting of course the areas of Digital Identity and Digital Study Skills. The site is an informative one and gives students in-depth information regarding their own digital footprint and potential apps and websites that could enhance their studies.
Many students were buzzing with tales and informative insights into what and how they use social media applications. Having information and large icon images surrounding my ‘stall’ it fired off many interesting conversations.
However one student was far from impressed. In the crowd before me I picked up her scepticism as she frantically shock her head. “Am I not convincing you of its usefulness?” I enquired. It’s not that she said – I just don’t like apps – you set them up and you get buzzes and dings and notifications I don’t understand… hated it – so deleted it!
As this point she started a trend and I then realised the ‘mob’ in front mostly began to agree with her. And in truth I did a little also. If you do not have a total understanding of the app’s preferences and how to control them, they are indeed a disturbance rather than an aid to learning.
This is what I believe digital literacy needs to overcome. It is not just understanding how an app or site can be beneficial but how to control it and this is proving more difficult as apps and websites become more complicated and connected. How many sites do you register for and are then prompted to put in your Facebook or Twitter details?
Of course I am not just talking about Twitter here its all forms on online communication and how we can or cannot share information.
Are any of us overwhelmed with the amount of information and communication we have to deal with? How can me manage it? I am aware that most of us in the ‘know’ or ‘Clued Up’ can manage this information overload reasonably well. But for those that can’t it can become an added problem to the whole idea of what it is for.
There was a recent article form the BBC by Sean Coughlan (Education correspondent 30th Sept 2015) regarding the rising numbers of stressed students seeking help. Of course there are many factors relating to this such as leaving home for the first time or financial issues, however the article highlighted the following:
Meredith Leston, a student at St Anne's College, Oxford, suffered from anorexia and depression in her first year.
"People talk about 'snapping' and that is what happened to me. I just couldn't take the pressure and the whole new realm of expectations."
She says part of the problem is the ever-present role of social media, fuelling a culture of constant comparison and a sense of inadequacy.
"As well as being a first class student, you have to be a first class person, you have to be performing socially, academically. It's a nightmare. You're constantly on."
The other constant thorn is the expectation to be seen to be having a good time, with social media turning social lives into a place of competition rather than relaxation.
Oh, and if you are wondering what Darth Vader is doing on the stall…. he is recording student comments. The mouth is in fact a camera and students were happy to answer a few questions… see example below:
It's always good to get students talking....
Chris O'Reilly is an Educational Technologist and freelance advisor for online educational learning material and development.