The role of technology in our daily lives can be complicated, even challenging. Apps and platforms are often designed to grab our attention and lure us to stay on longer, targeting their users with ads and paid content, and collecting data from every click.
Digital devices allow us to accomplish tasks, access media and connect with people, but also chip away at our time and focus, leaving us feeling drained and unhappy.
All of this can be a formidable challenge for adolescents, who have little experience of life without a constant stream of digital content and social media interactions. As they do not have mature cognitive control yet, they are easily distracted.
The course will introduce a set of classroom activities and school-based initiatives for raising students’ awareness about the effects of digital technology in their lives, to help them take control of their digital well-being.
Participants will try out the activities for themselves, taking stock of their own technology use, sharing personal insights and experimenting with their digital habits.
They will reflect on this experience to define what initiatives are needed in their schools for encouraging students to talk openly and non-judgmentally about their technology use and navigate digital life so that it remains balanced and enriching.
The course will focus on the most critical threats to students’ well-being. Specifically, compulsive overuse can interfere with sleep and physical activity, induce irritability and debilitate concentration, ultimately affecting learning and the pursue of personal interests and goals.
Overconsumption of social media can undermine identity and body image, diminish genuine social bonds and contribute to anxiety and depression.
By the end of the course, participants will be ready to take on the educational responsibility of protecting students’ digital well-being. They will feel confident to engage adolescents about their digital habits and eager to raise awareness about how the algorithmic mechanisms of the attention economy affect their lives.
The course will help the participants to:
- Understand how the attention economy shapes the design of digital technology in ways that threaten well-being;
- Develop students’ awareness of the potential harms of technology use;
- Create conditions for discussing both the positive and the negative aspects of technology use safely, openly and non-judgmentally in the classroom;
- Reduce students’ defensiveness around examining their digital habits;
- Guide students to recognize digital habits that have a negative impact on their well-being;
- Promote students’ agency to be in control of their on-screen time and to use technology responsibly;
- Lead initiatives and create support structures in their schools to foster digital wellbeing.
Day 1 – Course introduction
- Introduction to the course, the school, and the external week activities;
- Icebreaker activities;
- Presentations of the participants’ schools.
Introduction: Identifying the problem
- Issues and dilemmas related to student use of digital devices;
- Current digital device policies in the participants’ schools;
- Participants’ digital experience and generational differences.
Day 2 – Attention economy, ubiquitous technology and persuasive design
- The value of our time online: the precious resource of around-the-clock attention that tech companies are extracting for profit;
- Persuasive design: techniques built into digital technology to capture attention and induce online behavior;
- In-class activities for identifying the persuasive and extractive features of favorite apps and social media platforms;
- 1st experiment: awareness of our daily digital habits.
Day 3 – Potential harms of increasingly digital lifestyles
- Direct impacts on well-being: mental health, digital dependency, concentration, memory, and learning;
- Influence on life beyond the screen: time and attention drain, self-identity, social relationships, the authenticity of experience;
- In-class activities for examining the relation between digital habits and real life, the value of various digital activities, and the preferred allocation of time;
- 2nd experiment: how our digital habits make us feel.
Day 4 – A classroom environment conducive to open discussion of digital well-being
- Discussing sensitive issues with adolescents in the classroom: challenges, strategies, and guidelines;
- Structuring ways for students to articulate their personal experience and connect it with broader themes of digital well-being;
- In-class activities based on personal stories about “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of digital life;
- 3rd experiment: minimal digital device use.
Day 5 – School-level initiatives for digital well-being
- Policies for device use and digital well-being support structures;
- Teacher-parent partnership for coordinated action at school and at home;
- Tech timeout challenges and re-assessing technology use;
- Creative projects and campaigns for digital well-being.
Day 6 – Course closure and cultural activities
- Course evaluation: round-up of acquired competencies, feedback, and discussion;
- Awarding of the course Certificate of Attendance;
- Excursion and other external cultural activities.