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Since Facebook became “Meta” and announced its entrance into the “Metaverse”, a lot of people have been left asking what exactly that means, and what are the implications for the next generation of technology-addicted kids?

Clearly, technology, phones and social media have become an indispensable asset in our lives – changing the way that we communicate, learn and speak. For many adults, it’s routine for a smartphone to essentially act as an extension of a limb, books to be read on a Kindle and work meetings to be joined through Zoom. With the rapidly advancing technological options for daily tasks, kids are beginning to form a closer relationship with technology too. The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 90% of Australian children are looking at screens for 10 or more hours a week.

Many parents are familiar with the dangers of excess screen time, social media and technology addiction in kids – but with Facebook’s rebranding itself to “Meta”, and its subsequent launch into the “Metaverse”, the implications for children in this new technological space is unclear.

What on earth is the “Metaverse”?

We have all heard the term flying around in the news recently, but less people know what the metaverse actually entails. Broadly, the metaverse is a virtual reality and augmented reality system that creates engrossing, 3D digital experiences, that were previously viewed on a phone in the palm of your hand. Essentially, it is a combination of immersive online spaces that connect to create an entirely online universe – accessed through virtual reality.

The concept of a metaverse is not a new phenomenon. Coined by Neil Stephenson in his 1992 sci-fi book Snow Crash, the metaverse was described as a virtual world where the protagonist went to escape his reality in Los Angeles.

After Snow Crash, concepts akin to a “metaverse” were adapted by a myriad of other sci-fi and action productions like Ready Player One and more recently Free Guy starring Ryan Reynolds, as well as online games like Second Life, Roblox and Pokemon Go – which all centre around the blurring of the lines between online activity, and reality.

Clearly, there are several companies that have begun to utilise the digital connectedness that the metaverse has to offer. However, with the recent addition of Facebook and Microsoft to this list, as well as the large focus on access via virtual reality– the distinction between what is online and what is reality looks even more unclear.

Here are some of the main features of the “metaverse” to consider:

  • A virtual world and virtual reality: this is, to many, the most important aspect of the metaverse. The idea behind a virtual reality entrance into the metaverse, is that you feel more present in the online space, and less connected to reality.
  • Other people: the presence of other people in the metaverse is a characteristic that Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg are presumably focusing on – to create a more realistic and ‘natural’ form of online communication. There will be many other avatars and users in the metaverse space to talk to and even do things with – from the comfort of your bedroom.
  • Availability: This virtual world is available whenever an individual wants to enter it – which can do even more to blur the boundaries between online and real life. Users can change the metaverse by adding virtual objects or buildings, and even potentially owning residency within it.
  • Connection to the real world: some people theorise that some aspects of real life will be able to translate into the metaverse. For example, spending money for things that you will only get in the metaverse, or flying a drone in the metaverse to control a drone in real life.

Lack of control on age and content restrictions

Now we have more of a clear understanding of what this online universe will look like – we should talk about the potential impact it will have on the younger generation. Children have already been exposed to several social online games and gaming systems like Roblox, Play Station and Xbox, where they can play a game and communicate with others simultaneously. Therefore, the idea of a metaverse will undoubtedly appeal to them.

While access to the metaverse is limited to those over 13 years old, there is a lack of verification and moderation software to ensure that this age restriction remains enforced. Oculus, Facebook’s virtual reality platform, does not have much information to support the alleged age restrictions for the metaverse. Its safety centre states that the software is “Designed for Age 13+” and therefore those under 13 are not permitted to have an account or use devices. However, the section next to this explains how to share an Oculus device with friends and family, therefore demonstrating that children would be able to access the metaverse by simply using their parent’s account.

Additionally, with Facebook’s recent efforts to include younger children in their social media empire, parents may be cautious on the ability for their children to access the metaverse and become subject to its immersive and addictive nature – without someone monitoring the content they are consuming.

Where do you draw the line between technology and reality?

Despite the lack of control on age and content restrictions, a larger danger that presents itself in virtual reality, is the blurring of the lines between online activity and reality. More specifically, considering the already difficult task of moderating cyberbullying and online abuse in 2D communication, how these forms of bullying will impact teens and children in a more realistic 3D online space that is the metaverse.

When communicating online or playing games through a phone, the artificial nature of the experience is clearer, because you are holding it in your hand. However, the immersive experience of VR – in that it’s manufactured to feel ‘real’ – makes its simulated nature more difficult to distinguish. Research has demonstrated that the psychological and effects of VR register in our bodies the same way as real-life experiences, as the level of “presence” in VR aims to mimic reality.

When this is considered in the context of violent video games, or social media cyberbullying, the ‘coolness’ factor is diminished. For example, current studies have demonstrated that when playing violent video games in VR, and experiencing physical abuse in a realistic VR landscape, the subconscious psychological and post-traumatic effect may be more intense than intended.

Verbal abuse will also feel more real as well. If a child is experiencing cyberbullying in a virtual reality landscape – instead of reading abusive words from someone hiding behind a keyboard, they will be hearing and seeing someone verbally abuse them, as if it was happening in real life.

Even so, because of the developing nature of children’s brains, the increasingly mainstream nature of VR – paired with potential traumatic experiences within – makes the potential consequences to children’s mental and emotional health unknown.

The introduction of the metaverse has catapulted the prospect of VR communication into the mainstream. Albeit scary, this technology has the potential to revolutionise social media and online gaming. However, whether this will have a positive effect on the wellbeing of our children and other future generations is unknown. It is in the hands of controlling companies to establish secure age verification and content moderation systems, to make the metaverse the safest place that it can be.

The new JBL Xtreme 3 is the perfect speaker for families.

Whether I’m out with my family for a picnic, having a day at the beach, or simply relaxing poolside – this new speaker from JBL offers newfound ease to carry music with me wherever I go.

Man and woman at campground, JBL speaker in forgeround
JBL Xtreme 3 designed to go where you go

Most speakers are fragile, lose battery quickly and can be a hazard around the little ones. Often, they have to be plugged into the wall and require hours of charging and on top of that, they can contribute to the endless black-hole of similar-looking cords – all with individual and specific purposes. With a convenient USB-C charging cord that is likely to power a number of your devices, this speaker is designed with the user in mind.

SOUND CONTROL:

 What I love the most about the Xtreme 3 is the beautiful and rich depth of sound. With sensitive volume control that is easily adjusted with buttons along the topside of the device granting me the versatility to host a house full of guests, or to simply soundtrack a relaxing night in.

JBL Xtreme 3 Speaker
Powerful sound: four drivers and two pumping JBL Bass Radiators.

DURABLE:

Water-proof and dust-proof, this speaker can survive all the elements. Eliminating any concern over preserving my new and expensive toy – the speaker can be submerged for up to half an hour within a metre of water. Sand on the beach? Splashes of water from the pool? No problem. Plus, this makes for easy cleaning – whether it needs a good rinse from sand or dirt or just a quick wipe down.

USE IT ANYWHERE:

With a busy family that is on the go: parties, camping trips, beach holidays, backyard BBQs…the list goes on –it’s handy to have a speaker that can keep up with me and last the distance. After just 2.5 hours of charging, the speaker is juiced up with 15-hour battery life.

Dancer with JBL Speaker

BUILT TO LAST:

The durability of the speaker is yet another bonus, with grips along the speaker base making it non-slip. But, even better yet is the sturdy make that allows for peace of mind should it be subject to any rough and tumble around the house.

Girls holding hands skateboarding carrying speaker
Carry strap for all day, everyday use

CONVENIENT:

The new JBL Xtreme 3 rises to the challenge and offers features I didn’t realise I had been missing. Days of either leaving the speaker behind or awkwardly lugging an extra and soon deemed unnecessary item around with me are over. I particularly enjoy the convenience of easily transporting it outside when entertaining guests, for a weekend away or around the house for my children’s birthday, all with thanks to its lightweight and carry strap.

Blue JBL Xtreme 3
Blue JBL Xtreme 3

SIMPLE AND EASY TO USE FEATURES INCLUDE:

  • Extended battery life
  • USB-C Charging port – a new feature for increased user-friendliness, the speaker can be charged with any USB-C cable, so you don’t have to pack different cords
  • USB port in the back – out for the day and running low on battery? Plug your phone cord in the back and let the speaker charge your phone
  • Wireless Bluetooth connectivity – connect your phone via Bluetooth and have access to all of your or the kid’s favourite music
  • Party Boost – the speaker comes with a new function to easily connect to other JBL speakers and increase the sound and distance, perfect for bigger groups and families for compatible listening
  • Easy-to-use control buttons – situated between the handles on the top of the device to you can: power up, connect to Bluetooth, adjust the volume, play and pause, and activate Party Boost; the speaker is simple to operate
  • The speaker comes with a starter guide, adaptor and power cord + regional plug, carry strap and safety sheet

SPECS:

  • 1.97kg weight
  • Dimensions: 28.8cm width x 13.2cm diameter x 13.6cm height
  • Water-proof
  • Dust-proof
  • Black or Blue colourway
  • $399.99 RRP

https://www.jbl.com.au/XTREME-3-.html

The Resilience Project holds speaking events and is a curriculum that is aimed at using gratitude, empathy and mindfulness to fight mental illness, with the program implemented in hundreds of schools Australia wide.

“If this book wasn’t written, my sister and I would have never actually sat down and had a conversation about our relationship,” says Hugh Van Cuylenburg, creator of The Resilience Project.

At three years of age, Georgia Van Cuylenburg had been playing alongside her brother, Hugh, when a man picked her up, took her out of sight, and sexually assaulted her.
Her innocence of childhood taken in one fell swoop, and a wound that bleed into many facets of her life for decades, was brought to life. This trauma explaining why the darkness of anorexia had chosen her as it’s host, stripping her down to skin and bones.
“I remembered it happening and when my sister told us as a family I went ‘oh right really’ I didn’t even say I remembered it, she continued to feel alone through that trauma, we never talked about it,” says her brother, Hugh.
Hugh was inspired to create The Resilience Project and write The Resilience Project: Finding happiness through gratitude empathy & mindfulness.   
During his time researching his book, Hugh read a lot about vulnerability and shame. “Shame is what locks us up, and really makes it hard for us to be happy and feel well.”
“My shame lied in my relationship with my sister,” said Hugh.
As Hugh showed his family the first copies of his book, he eagerly awaited their opinions and critiques. Georgia was devastated at what her brother had written about her. “She said, ‘when am I going to get that vulnerable side of you?.'”

For Hugh, his book became much more than helping millions of Australians who struggle with mental illness, it became a tool for healing his broken relationship with his sister, a shame he had carried for many years.

Hugh changed his book last minute and worked on his relationship with his sister, deciding that his novel was to focus on human connection and the people that have moved him.
Today mental illness has become an epidemic, taking our youth one by one – an insidious disease that has crept into our society and been given the freedom to flourish, due to stigma, lack of resources and communication. Even today mental illness is not treated the same way that other life threatening illnesses are.
Mental illness is very common in Australia, with one in five Australians experiencing mental illness in a year, meaning that 20 per cent of the population is battling a disease that their family, partner and employer cannot see and might not even believe.

Further statistics show indicates that 45 per cent of Australians will experience a mental illness at some stage in their life.

In 2008, educator Hugh had been teaching young teens in Melbourne when his then girlfriend asked him to accompany her on a trip to India. In India, Hugh taught at an under-privileged school in the Himalayan desert area and with approximately 150 children enrolled, his job was to teach English.
As he began to know his students better, many of whom were living in extreme poverty, Hugh became inspired by his student’s happiness, gratitude and lack of mental health issues that had become so prevalent in the Australian schools where Hugh taught. Returning to Australia, Hugh took with him the local children’s insights, practices and wisdom, and he slowly created The Resilience Project.
The Resilience Project began as a talk that outlined Hugh’s research and experiences with mental illness. Today, it is a school program and curriculum that reaches schools, sporting clubs and workplaces all over Australia and now New Zealand.
In The Resilience Project curriculum and speaking events, Hugh explains how incorporating gratitude, empathy and mindfulness (shortened to GEM in his book) can prevent mental illness and provide happiness.
As many parents know, the most influential years of a person’s life is their childhood,with studies showing that 50 per cent of all mental health conditions a person experiences in their life will have started by age 14.

During his time in India, Hugh noticed how the children were very grateful to be at school and practiced mindfulness every morning before their classes began, incorporating all this into his program for schools and youth, with the feedback having been phenomenally positive so far.
After years of implementing this program, Hugh wrote The Resilience Project: Finding happiness through gratitude empathy & mindfulness,releasing the book in November 2019.
Since the book’s release Hugh has had an influx of positive feedback, and is still as humble as ever; with a warm energy and healing nature, it is easy to see why thousands flock to hear him speak and line up afterwards, telling Hugh their troubles and how his words have helped them to heal.
“We have had incredible feedback, I just saw this morning that it is Number One on audio books, which I can’t believe.”
“I’ve had a few really beautiful personal messages from people.”
Hugh recalls one recent message he’d received from a reader who had been feeling suicidal and after reading the book felt so grateful and positive about his life, telling Hugh how his words had saved his life.

“Honestly if he is the only person that reads this book and that’s the only feedback I get, that’s a worthwhile six months writing,” Hugh says.

On a mission to promote gratitude, empathy and mindfulness, Hugh tackles the tricky topic of social media and parenting in his book, describing the rise of social media as only showing ‘the greatest hits’ of life, and how damaging this can be for young minds.
The Resilience Project: Finding happiness through gratitude empathy & mindfulness includes a lot of tips and ideas for parents, who have found themselves with children inundated with technology and social media that teaches them validation is found through a screen.

“The best way to help your kids is to start modelling better behaviour, you can’t say to your kids ‘stop being on your phone all the time’ then turn around and check your emails,” he says.

The book is full of strategies to help parents put their phone down with one of the easiest to grasp, yet hardest to implement, simply being to leave their phone at home.
Hugh states that this simple task can leave us more focused on others around us, increasing feelings of connection and togetherness, which are two big ways to fight loneliness and mental illness in this increasingly busy and digital world.
Hugh believes that the less a child is on a device the more aware they are to their surroundings and community, leaving more time to be grateful for the society we are lucky enough to have in Australia.
As for fostering GEM into daily life, Hugh says it’s all down to practice and implementing these small practises into your families every day.
For mindfulness, Hugh suggests going for a walk around the block and focusing on what you can hear, an exercise parents can easily make into family time. Hugh also suggests at the dinner table to reflect on the good in each family member’s day and to share what they are grateful for and looking forward to.
“Look out for opportunities to be kind to people, you watch how happy that makes you and if you do it in front of your kids, that’s the most powerful thing of all,” says Hugh.
“You will have an enormous impact on them because they’ll start to copy you, they will start to be someone who is kind to other people.”

Meet the Aussie mums making a career on social media.

Increasingly, new mums take to social media as a creative outlet while adjusting to motherhood, with some building up enough of a following to turn it into a career.

Marketers and brands know that in 2019 audiences are after authenticity, so they flock to these mums who are open and honest about their journey through motherhood – the good, the bad and the ‘insta-worthy’.

These Influencer mums do a lot more than just post cute photos of their kids; they are content creators and successful businesswomen, who share advice on pregnancy, style, health, travel and fitness. They have created a community of mums who can relate to their struggles and learn from their tips and sometimes just share in a laugh.

Here we’ve collected some of our favourite Victorian Influencers to follow for your daily dose of motherhood, fashion and travel and lifestyle inspiration.

1. @flatoutmum

After having four boys in five years (including identical twins!), Olivia Anderson saw a gap in the market for a twin feeding pillow. Busy Mums need an extra pair of hands, so the Twincredible was born. From there, arose a website and social media for twin families and the natural evolution was Olivia sharing more of her life, tips and products she loves to a wider audience.

This platform allowed Olivia to share more of her busy life with four young boys, but also her love of flat shoes. Always showing a real and honest take on motherhood (not just the highlight reel) with the mission to empower, inform and celebrate #Mumlife

Olivia prefers to encourage Mums to look after themselves as much as they do their children. She introduced the first Retreat designed specifically for Mothers back in 2016 and now they have extended from Melbourne to Bali, where her third sold-out international Retreat is about to be held.

Visit Olivia’s websites at www.flatoutmum.com.au, www.twincredible.com.au, www.flatoutmumretreats.com.au

2. @bambiandbaby_

Elizabeth Anile, like many 20-something-year-old women, had a pretty straightforward plan for her life. First came the career, then love, a home and a family. She got all of these things; an accomplished journalist at 25, she got the man, the fairytale-style proposal, and ultimately the pitter patter of tiny feet.

At 26, Elizabeth’s life was torn apart. A young woman who barely a year before hadn’t even thought about motherhood suddenly found herself alone with a new baby. A former career woman was, overnight, a full time single mum.

Despite the curve balls life has thrown, Elizabeth’s positivity shines through her writing and her love is personified in her beautiful, happy, bubbly baby boy.

“I guess what I want to get out there is the message that you’re not alone,” she says. And her most important message? ‘Its not a bad thing being a single mum, it’s empowering and a blessing’.

You’ll find Elizabeth’s blog at www.bambiandbaby.com

3. @mama.duck.said

Ange Cowan is a Ballarat mum sharing her mum life stories in a light hearted way.

It took her two years to get pregnant with her first child as she has endometriosis and also polycystic ovaries.

She then went on to have three kids under three, and tries to share her high and lowlights so other mums don’t always feel so alone.

Ange wants all mums to feel supported and to know that we are all going through struggles (some just hide it better than others).

Ange also loves to share her favourite parenting jokes and quotes along with some of her favourite products helping her get through motherhood (including wine).

4. @houseofharvee

Krystal Giardina always wanted to be a mum. She always wanted to be a Disney Princess too, but she knows you can’t have everything.

Turns out, being a sleep-deprived, clean freak, pasta eating mother of three, led her to social media where she began to share images of her home. Now, only a short few years later, while pregnant with her third child she appeared from behind the camera and is now a familiar face.

Juggling motherhood, owning a business, wife, blogger, Influencer and cleaner (someone’s got to do it), Krystal shares her life and family through her platform and her positive, encouraging, yet REAL attitude to life and parenting resonates with mothers everywhere.

Krystal is mother to Vienna, Harlow and Baby boy, Avery, wife to Aldo, body image and self-love advocate and long-time Grey’s Anatomy fan.

Krystal hopes to continue to share her love of style, interiors and motherhood journey with her followers for as long as they want to follow along.

You can also find Krystal at houseofharvee.com

5. @amypapadatos_

Determined, aspirational, resilient and ambitious – she is Amy Papadatos. Above all else, she is a wife, a mother and a successful business owner.

With a love for adventure, travel, fashion and a keen eye for detail, Amy is courageous in the pursuit of what sets her soul on fire. A goal getter and a trend setter, Amy is a dynamic woman who beautifully shares her experiences of the world around her one Instagram square at a time.

It is impossible to ignore her happy-go-lucky personality that shines through her pictures – lusting over her locations and outfits each and every time.

6. @justamelbournemama

Amanda Morley (@justamelbournemama) started her Instagram page towards the end of 2017 as a means to share snaps of her unborn son, Hudson.

Already a mama to a teenage girl, having a baby again was exciting and Amanda couldn’t wait to share this new journey through her page.

Showcasing her newfound love for baby boy fashion, with Hudson as her muse and at-home baby model, Amanda’s page began to grow. At just three months old, Hudson made his first career move from modelling for his mama to modelling in campaigns.

In a twist of awesomeness, Amanda also learnt that she was three months pregnant and Hudson was soon to be a big brother – both Hudson and Easton shared the exact due date a year apart!

Amanda and Tinashe (@justamelbournedad) quickly learned the term Irish twins…and yes they have their hands full!

At 11 months and 3 weeks between them, Easton has joined Hudson in his modelling career. Life in Melbourne is definitely busier, but lattes, brunches and Melbourne events are still on the menu for this family.

7. @real_mumma

Adele Barbaro is the ‘mumpreneur’ and blogger behind The Real Mumma, where she shares an honest and raw insight into motherhood.

In 2018 Adele started MAMA Wine Co. Adele wanted to take the confusion out of the hundreds of wines on offer with a range that has been developed, tried and tested by everyday mamas.

“One day I was hosting a dinner party and the men were talking about the wine pairing well with the dinner and commenting about its complexity and legs. I turned to my friend and said, I wonder if there is a wine that pairs well with all my washing? And then and there, the cheeky Mama Wine Co. began,” Adele shares.

MAMA is 100 per cent Australia made and comes from only the best vineyards, sourced after countless trips to find the perfect drop for having a cheeky little giggle at motherhood.

The all new ‘It’s Me Time’ Moscato and the ‘Pairs Well With Bad TV’ Pinot Noir is available for a limited time only from www.mamawineco.com

Look for the Good – What is a ‘gratitude jar’ and why do we all need one?

The newsfeed on TV and our social media seem to be filled with disasters on both a large and small scale. We face a constant barrage of awful stories from the most remote corners of the globe.

Gloom and doom seems ever-present each time we power up a device. It seems like we are surrounded by bad news everywhere we look.

I think to be fair, in the past we had less exposure to news items. There was the daily paper or the 6 o’clock news broadcast. Any truly important newsworthy items could be found in one of those two sources.

“The newsfeed on TV and our social media seem to be filled with disasters”

Now that we have a 24 hour a day 7 days a week news-cycle, the content in these feeds need to be constantly added to and updated. Items that in years before were considered local news now find their way into the worldwide news feed.

It has been shown in the research that anxiety and depression is on the rise among all age groups – but particularly in teens. This is a world-wide phenomenon. It isn’t limited to our street, our neighbourhood or our community.

“Anxiety and depression is on the rise…particularly in teens”

This worries me as an individual but it worries me so much more as a mother.

You see, our kids live their lives on their mobile devices – laptops, iPads and the ever-present mobile phones, which means that they see this negative narrative constantly.

“Our kids live their lives on their mobile devices”

I read recently that the greatest weapon we have in our safeguarding our mental health is choosing our thoughts wisely. This resonated with me.

We can choose to look at, and focus on those dark and awful news stories or we can choose to refocus and shine a light on the good and positive things in our lives. I know that sounds like a really big task but it can be as simple as very small daily or weekly ritual or habit.

For years now I have tried to help my kids with looking for joy and light in their day – every night at dinner we each share our “three good things” about our day.

They don’t have to be great achievements or world-changing events. They can be as simple as being grateful for a lovely meal cooked for them or sunshine on their face on the way to school or a kind word from a friend.

All those tiny little good things add up!

So last year we had a tough year. Not massive big disasters, but seemingly many little small scale challenges and hardships that just wore us all down little by little. Wow, were we happy to see the end of 2018!

So over the Christmas break I made a gratitude jar for my desk. My idea was that each time we have cause to celebrate we pull out one of the little tags inside and write down our good thing and drop it in the jar. Once again, I am not talking Nobel Prize winning type occasions.

“Each time we have cause to celebrate we…write down our good thing”

“As simple as  a girls lunch or coffee with lovely friends or getting joy from meeting a stranger’s puppy on the beach, finding some lovely sea glass, watching rosellas on our bird feeder whilst we eat brekky, or one of our fabulous  kids coming home from university for the weekend!”

“I am not talking Nobel Prize winning type occasions…[it can be] as simple as a girls lunch or coffee”

All good positive events – I bought a fab pen to drop inside and added a bunch of blank cards ready to collect our good moments.

At the end of the year (or hey, before then if we are having a really bad day) we will pull out all the little tags and review our pile of golden sunshine!

Re-focus!

My plan is that at the end of the year I will buy a cheap and colourful little notebook and glue the tags in to make a collection of all of our highlights and to clear the jar ready for the year ahead. I can see this jar is going to bring us much joy in the years to come.

So we know that life is full of challenges and celebrations …. moments good and bad.

Life is good, not perfect, right!

Our gratitude jar is not about having no hardship or having a perfect “instagrammable” life  but simply about choosing to focus on our blessings.

Our little gratitude jar has now become a favourite gift for friends and family. The kids drop a few tags into the jar before we gift it telling the person some of the things they LOVE and are grateful for about the person

There is no greater gift than the gift of being loved and appreciated.

Our Gratitude jar is enriching not only our own days but the strengthening the relationships we build.

Kathryn is a wife and mother to 4 children. The family have now settled back in Australia after time spent in Hong Kong and The United Kingdom. Her aim was always to have the children raised in an Australian household – even if that was overseas. The challenges faced and blessings enjoyed whilst living in foreign cultures and adjusting and adapting helped to shape her gratitude focus. Kathryn is a medical sonographer and in addition to working in her chosen profession she also works in the family business. She is passionate about photography and enjoys capturing the beauty of the coastline in her local area in her free time. Her passion for photography and travel have also combined to see her published on the topic in online travel publications.

 

With the implementation of the ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) initiative in many Australian schools, questions have been raised over the impact of technology in the classroom.

In recent years, an increasing number of Australian schools have begun to implement “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) schemes.

However, with this new trend an issue arises of whether this introduction of more technology will impact student learning. It raises the question as to whether it could be distracting students more than helping them.

What is BYOD?

This concept originated in the business world, with companies allowing employees to use their personal smartphones, laptops, tablets and other technological devices in the workplace. The initiative has since gained popularity in the education sector with a number of schools encouraging students to bring their own personal devices to use in the classroom.

What are the issues?

With this new trend have come many issues associated with it – such as financial concerns; technological infrastructure; teacher training; privacy; and network security. The issue of equity is seen as a major issue in any discussion of BYOD, as not all students can afford their own iPad.

Not all students can afford their own iPad.

The issue that requires the most consideration is that of the impact on student’s learning as a result of this increase in technology within the classroom, and the potential distractions that come with it.

The pros and cons

While questions have been raised on the impact of BYOD programs, there are many benefits of the initiative. One study outlined these benefits which include:

  • High levels of student engagement through interactive assignments,
  • The use of a range of online apps to help teach core curriculum skills and independent learning activities,
  • The contribution to more flexible and collaborative learning experiences.

However, there are arguments for the implications of the rise of BYOD programs. The issue of distraction is a big one. A survey of teachers found that more than 70% feel that students’ devices were having a detrimental effect on their attention span.

With the new opportunity for learning apps at their fingertips, students now also have constant access to social media and the distractions and dangers that this can bring. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and other sources of entertainment can be tempting distractions for students that could otherwise detract from time that could be spent on learning activities.

With the new opportunity for learning apps at their fingertips, students now also have constant access to social media.

Utilising BYOD

Despite potential impacts, it is inevitable that technology is going to play a larger role in our children’s lives, both at home and in the classroom. It should therefore be an integral part of their learning. The issue is how to understand the role of BYOD in education, and consider ways for educators and parents alike to utilise their benefits as learning tools rather than thinking of them as a diversion.

 

The digital age has its benefits, but it isn’t always straight-forward for the technologically-challenged, as Ari shares. 

So, here’s the thing. We have a robot. A real live one, blinking around the house. Robot – I came up with that name – doesn’t talk, but he does beep a lot and sends me messages from his, erm, screen. He’s a pretty pragmatic kind of chap, but I’m thinking that the beeping might be a way of expressing affection? Is beeping one of those five Love Languages? If it isn’t, it should be.

It’s a bit of an unexpected relationship because I wouldn’t say I’m a robot kinda gal. In fact, me and technology have issues most of the time. Okay, ALL of the time. You know those Sat Nav thingies that never shut up? They don’t work for me. Ever. I end up driving around new estates full of sand and cul-de-sacs while the voice – the goddamn non-stop voice – keeps telling me to, “take the fifth exit at the roundabout on Highway 61”. Where the heck is Highway 61? Does anyone know? Has Perth grown a big ole road that I don’t know about?  And do roundabouts actually have five exits, because I’ve never been able to count that many, even if I do circle them for hours, like a mouse on a treadmill,  slowing down at the off-roads to peer desperately at street signs. Obviously, other drivers hate me. That’s okay. In these situations, I hate myself too. It’s a bad vibe. Bring back the map book, I say.

 

Me and technology have issues most of the time. Okay, ALL of the time. You know those Sat Nav thingies that never shut up? They don’t work for me. Ever.

Look, there’s all sorts of technology that’s way too clever for me. Smart Phones that get clogged with photos I can’t work out how to transfer, iPads that follow me to bed brandishing the internet so I don’t read books, iTunes – how do I get a song off that thing? – passwords for EV-ERY-TH-ING that get routinely forgotten, those darn recorded voice messages that go on and on, asking you to press so many options that finally, exhausted, you press ‘2’ instead of ‘5’  and get cut off. It’s brain haemorrhaging stuff. Truly. It’s a wonder we’re not all dead from the stress of so much convenience.

And it goes on. Relentlessly. All these time-saving, you-beaut, shiny-buttoned advances give me brain strain. This is because I grew up in the ‘80s, that much maligned decade of Pseudo Echo and Spandau Ballet, and the best bad fashion you could ever, ever ask for. Jeez, I miss those fluro tube skirts teamed with a Wham-inspired ‘Choose Life!’ t.shirt. Could it get any better than that? I say, not. It’s been all downhill since then.

All these time-saving, you-beaut, shiny-buttoned advances give me brain strain.

The thing about the ‘80s is that it was Low Tech, in all sorts of ways, and this was AWESOME. In fact, the most technologically advanced thing about the ‘80s was the Mix Tape, and I was pretty darn good at those babies. It involved listening to the Top Ten on the radio every night, cassette player in hand, and pressing Play and Record at EXACTLY THE SAME TIME, whenever your favourite song came on. The trick was trying to cut off the stupid announcer, who always talked over the first few bars of the song. It was impossible, of course. You’d always end up with Madonna’s Holiday overlayed with a booming voice about “a provocative new talent”, while you did your best Madonna moves around the bedroom. And she was provocative, back then. Madonna  – she liked a tube skirt, too – was risky business.

… the most technologically advanced thing about the ‘80s was the Mix Tape, and I was pretty darn good at those babies.

So anyway, we all made Mix Tapes and gave them to one another, complete with ragged sound bites from random radio announcers. I was good at it. I could get down with the Mix Tape. There are people who think I peaked too early, perhaps. My husband, who sees technology as an extension of his arm, might be one of them. He gets a bit tense about the password-forgetting and photo-clogged phone, just between you and me. Never mind. We all have our peccadilloes.

Interestingly, old Robot and I have a mutually respectful relationship, and I know how to make that baby work for his food and board. He’s pretty good at picking up after the Dog –The Hair Dropper From Hell – and the Toddler – The Crumbalina – and he does it without any sighing or eye-rolling, or announcements about ‘helping’. You listening, chaps? My lovely Robot, who I might in fact love very, very much, is a vacuum cleaner. Yep, that’s right. I just place him gently on the floor and press a button and off he goes, tootling around the house sucking up stuff, as happy as a productive duck. In fact, the only time he gets a bit shirty is when he’s full of rubbish and wants to be emptied, so he can KEEP ON DOING THE HOUSEWORK. That’s when the beeping and written messages start, if you get my drift.

 

My lovely Robot, who I might in fact love very, very much, is a vacuum cleaner.

Now, this is the kind of technology I intuitively understand. I lock eyes with Robot’s screen, and we just get each other. You hearing me, all you millionaire-geek-inventor type people? Yes, you, over there, laughing at my Mix Tapes. Forget about inventing another stupid game that involves shooting birds, or whatever, we need you to invent a robot that does the laundry, puts clothes away, scrubs the loo, cleans the windows and IRONS. A spot of cooking wouldn’t go astray, either.

It’ll make you another few million bucks, and women will love you. L-O-V-E  Y-O-U. Actually, they’ll love your robot more, but they’ll still like you a lot – more than when you were doing the bird game, okay.

And, while you’re at it, if you can sort out a Sat Nav that actually works, Perth drivers would be very grateful.

-Ari Chavez