Challenge: Social Networking and Distraction


Many of us have felt this one negative effect of social media – only a few days until the deadline, finally picking up a book and trying to do some work … and a quick glance to the opened tabs in our browser signals that we have received (1) new notification. Naturally, until Facebook (or other social networking website) is shut, we won’t be able to focus on our task completely – just because of curiosity. Maybe someone liked our picture? Or tagged us in s status?

Undoubtedly, the increased use of digital media in everyday life will have an impact upon people’s performance in their formal education and from that various issues will arise. One of the main problems teachers and students are facing is pupil’s distraction – there is something preventing them from concentrating on their task.

Pie chart infographic

As seen from the pie chart, according to a survey from Pewinternet, around 47% of asked teachers agree that today’s digital technologies distract students more than help them with their academics. Further 17% have given ‘strongly agree’ as an answer. This means that around two thirds of almost 2500 educators think today’s technological advancements are not used efficiently enough and disrupt the learning process.

A research conducted by Bernard McCoy, associate professor at University of Nebraska-Lincoln (2013), has shown that more than 80% of surveyed students admit that the usage of a smart phone, tablet or a laptop may interfere with their learning. The main cause of distraction during a lecture is texting (nearly 86% of people do it), followed by checking email (68%) and social networking (66%). The main reason for usage of digital media is staying connected (70%) and fighting boredom (55%). The majority of students claim that usage of their technological devices is only ‘a little’ distracting.

As distractions can have an impact on education, it is important to learn how to stay focused in class and not use digital media for unrelated purposes to the lecture. McCoy’s suggestions are to ask students to only message others if it is an emergency and step outside while doing it, in order not to disturb others. Furthermore, he gives periodic breaks and asks students to look up information during class from time to time. However, even with these measurements, pupils continue with their habits – even when over a fourth confess they have lost grade points because of social media distractions (McCoy, 2013).


The real message is because attention is under siege more than it has ever been in human history, we have more distractions than ever before, we have to be more focused on cultivating the skills of attention.

Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author




Further reading:


An interview with teachers

I was born into a family of teachers – both my parents are mathematicians. As they are still working within the education system, I decided to do a small interview with them about digital media and new technologies and ask them about their opinions. My questions are in bold and their collective answers are underneath.


How has education changed in the past 15 years? Do people study in a different way, do they have different values than before?

The way people communicate with each other has changed since new technologies entered our lives, in particular in education. Since we can now access a huge amount of information very quickly and at any time, the struggle for each person is not how to acquire information, but how to select and work with it. In this way, the education system does not focus on gathering and learning facts anymore, but rather on analysing and interpreting data – children are taught to seek connections, dependencies, come up with real-life applications of theories, extract principles. They now need to be able to evaluate figures – true or false, necessary or useless, beneficial or damaging, and not study them by heart without fully understanding.


So how do you think new technology and media help in education today?

New technology can be used to provide the facts quickly and easily. Team work can also be stimulated, as the necessary information will be retrieved faster and workload can be fairly split up between people. Also, social networks help students to connect with each other and discuss the tasks they are given without leaving their houses – which is very useful.
Every child has its own pace and way of studying that is most suitable for itself – if someone understands visually animated explanations of certain principles better than core book texts – this type of digital media can then also be of great benefit to students in their academic advance.


These are some very positive thoughts – however, does the Internet have a negative side as well when it comes to studying?

Yes, there can be a negative side – however, it is more related to the way people are using Internet, not as much its existence in its own. Unfortunately, some users do not make effort to distinguish unreliable sources from trustworthy ones and end up using incorrect information – only copy-pasting it, then learning wrong facts and illogical deductions by heart, not thinking them through at all. Such continuous practice can have a harmful impact on a person’s critical thinking ability and logical skills. That is why it is important that the Internet is only used as source of data – children also need to make sure it is correct, and the tasks in class are always more creative and require thought.


Have you heard of the Danish schools which allow students to use laptops and have access to the Internet during their final exams? What is your opinion on this matter?

We actually hadn’t heard of that. Very revolutionary! We haven’t used it in our classes, but maybe the pupils would be very happy to! (laughs) This is interesting. Well, an exam’s purpose is to test the knowledge and skills a person has acquired during the tuition. Depending on the type of skills a teacher is testing, various helping resources may be used. If the educator is assessing not children’s ability to memorise data, but to sift information through, to logically link facts and figures, to identify laws and principles – then yes, the Internet can be used as a tool during an exam. However, it is important that in such case the task is very specific and unique, so that students cannot find the solution online.


What do you think about distance e-Learning? (For example, websites which provide some university modules online – such as Coursera)

E-Learning is very useful, especially for people who are working or have other responsibilities and are unable to attend classes, as it is flexible. I like this type of websites as they provide alternatives and diversity. Anyone can study, no matter where they are. And I believe this is a good idea for disadvantaged people – with disabilities or difficulties moving, as it will raise their self-esteem and be helpful in a purely psychological way.


Do you believe technology and digital media are the future of education?

They will definitely integrate more and more into education. And as they are also increasingly becoming a bigger part of everyday life as well, it is important that children acquire the skills needed to use digital tools. However, in my opinion learning from real life around you is better and technology and media should only remain a relief tool – a database, and not overtake students’ lives.


Are students nowadays less knowledgeable than students 20 years ago? If so, is technology and media responsible for this?

I would say that students nowadays seem to know fewer facts than the ones 20 years ago. Perhaps new technology is distracting them far too much – because of the constant flow of information – which is also very overwhelming for them, they have a shorter attention span and cannot easily concentrate on deeply reading long texts. However, I must also say that many young people have developed their research skills to a high level, learn to think and link data from different sources and are very innovative and creative in finding practical solutions to a problem. As long as students are taught to correctly and efficiently use new media devices, they will advance.


Thank you very much!


Additionally, this is a video of a person, who has created a song by assigning each of the numbers from Pi a note – it is a great example of showing creativity and knowledge, and also providing facts about Pi:

Change in Education


There is perhaps no student nowadays who doesn’t know the song “Another brick in the wall” by the British rock band Pink Floyd. It has become a hymn to scholars from all around the world. But why was it written? Why do children still shout “We don’t need no education”?

This article gives an overview of the history of the creation and motives behind it. What is of importance for the purposes of this blog is the reason the song was written in the first place – it was inspired by the schooling of Roger Waters himself in the 1950s, which he felt was too strict and not stimulating. This iconic record is not an attack on education, but rather criticises a model that is far too oppressing for young individuals.

This type of educational model is called traditional and this website has shown a good comparison between traditional and progressive values.

The opposition of traditional versus progressive has been current throughout the last century – American theorist John Dewey mentions it in his books in the beginning of the 20th century. During the decades, people have tried to break up established boundaries and old beliefs, very often reflecting their rebellion in their art (as is the example with Pink Floyd). The model of fighting against the ‘system’ exists today and also in a very intensive form. Because of the sudden emerging of new technology, its rapid development and growth of digital media, change is more necessary than ever.

This blog will examine in what ways the system is currently being reformed and what possibilities lie ahead.


Bibliography and further reading:

Barber, M., 1996. The learning game: Arguments for an education revolution. London: Victor Gollancz

Rudestam, K.E., and Schoenholtz-Read, J., 2002. Handbook of online learning. Innovations in higher education and corporate training. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, Inc.

Dewey, J., 1997. Experience and Education. Pocket books.






Welcome to the blog, a.k.a. a small introduction

Hello and welcome to my blog!

I am a media student at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. This blog has been created for the module Digital media platforms and practices. It will focus on the impact modern digital media has on education – how traditional ways are changing and what new opportunities exist for people to expand their knowledge.

We have moved from “know what” learning to “know where” learning.

Lisa Nielsen, The Innovative Educator: Ten 21st Century Education Quotes I Carry With Me

We already knew that kids learned computer technology more easily than adults. It is as if children were waiting all these centuries for someone to invent their native language.

– Jaron Lanier

I chose the topic because it is of great interest to me. Technology is developing at a rapid pace, playing a bigger and bigger part in our lives by the day and extending the gap between generations even more. Values are changing – it may have been important to remember large amounts of facts 50 years ago, however, this is not useful anymore. We have access to an unlimited amount of information on the Internet through the use of various sorts of media – schools must teach us how to filter the data of benefit to us from the pool of content, how to find precisely the things we need.

I will focus on specific sub-topics throughout the next 11 weeks, i.e., introducing new education platforms (Khan Academy, Coursera), a more in-depth look at the impact of digital media on traditional education models and why people are using it. Since both my parents are teachers and work within education, I will feature a small interview with them in a future entry, showing the point of view of people with experience within the system – how they feel digital media has influenced the way we study and if they approve of it.

Well, this is it from me for the introduction. I am very excited for this blog, as I have never had one before. It seems interesting and refreshingly different from the traditional coursework format of fifteen to twenty-five hundred word essays or reports we’ve had until now. We’ll see if I’m still this enthusiastic in a few weeks time! 😛

Thank you for reading this entry, feel free to leave a comment below – I’ll be happy to know what you think, and until next time!