Rather, in our technology-saturated lives, it is the elusive art of paying attention that has become key to our mental wellbeing and success in life. For teachers, whose jobs hinge on maintaining the attention of young minds, this is big.
“If you cannot direct and control your attention you are going to get lost in this digital world,” Goodwin, a technology, wellbeing and productivity expert, tells delegates at the Generation Next conference in Melbourne today.
The expert believes that all educators have a ‘moral imperative’ to teach their students how to resist the 'digital pull’ that commands their attention. This force never leaves us, Goodwin notes. Students might be sitting in class, but their minds are most likely in the digital realm.
‘How many likes did my last Instagram post get? Did I get tagged in that picture taken last night? Mum hasn’t messaged yet about pick-up…’
Chances are, you know the drill.
While hesitant to use the word ‘addicted’, Goodwin says adults are not setting a great example when it comes to controlling and moderating their need to check their devices. In fact, she notes, 86 per cent of us reach for our smartphone as soon as our eyes open in the morning.
We have become just as infatuated with technology as the younger generation, and without the ability to control our focus we will be just as distracted, off-task, and at risk of compromising our physical and mental health.
“Technology has been designed to prey on our psychological vulnerabilities,” Goodwin posits.
“The hidden goal is the race for our attention, and the best way to get our attention is to know how people’s minds work.”
So, why do our students get so distracted by technology? As Goodwin puts it, it has been crafted to meet three of our most basic psychological drivers:
Like gambling machines and video games, technology deliberately centres on giving us intermittent and viable rewards, keeping us hooked more intently and for increasingly longer periods of time.
This is, in part, why a ten-year-old can play Fortnite for three hours straight, but struggles to hold their focus for longer than three minutes on a classroom learning task.
Thus, teachers must teach their students how to ‘build fortress around their attention’ and make good use of moderating tools to restrict their screen time, Goodwin argues.
Blanket school phone bans, she asserts, will not solve the problem of digital distraction – only our careful and deliberate instruction can empower children to become the masters of their own attention.