When Newsweek released its list of the Top 500 STEM High Schools in America last week, one school in the Baton Rouge region was in the top 500 – Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. The school was ranked the number one STEM high school in Baton Rouge. Episcopal also ranks seventh in the state of Louisiana and 448th nationally.
Many people know Episcopal for its rigorous academic offerings, its abundant arts programs, the opportunities provided to compete as part of a sports team or the range of character development and service learning activities. Now the school has earned national recognition for its science, technology, engineering and math offerings. For Episcopal Dean of Academics Dr. Sara Fenske, earning a spot in the top 500 is a testament to the school’s whole child philosophy of education.
STEM Starts Early
Dr. Fenske says Episcopal’s STEM efforts begin well before students enter Upper School. “Our Lower and Middle School efforts feed into what happens in Upper School,” she says. She points to successful programs such as Girls Who Code, Fab Shop and Maker Space. Even the littlest Knights have the opportunity for STEM learning as they work with technology such as Bee Bots, Bloxels and Root robots. “These programs help to make STEM more accessible to students,” says Dr. Fenske. She says the Lower and Middle School offerings make STEM learning fun and attract more students to the field. Hopefully, such experiences will inspire students to continue pursuing their interest in STEM throughout their educational journey.
Personalized Learning Encourages Exploration
Dr. Fenske says Episcopal’s personalized approach to learning also creates a STEM-friendly learning environment. “Students who are ready can accelerate in math and science in Middle School to ensure that they are challenged appropriately,” she says. At the same time, other students who are not yet ready to accelerate in Middle School have a range of challenging courses from which to choose. This allows all students the opportunity to explore a variety of STEM topics and see success in those courses. They then have opportunities to take college-level courses such as AP Calculus BC, AP Physics, AP Environmental Science, and AP Computer Science, as well as a selection of post-AP courses.
There is a balance to providing a variety of courses which appeal to a broad audience of students. When you get this balance right, students are able to excel in numerous areas because of the encouragement and support they receive. This explains why at Episcopal a student can perform with the Upper School select choir, be a member of the swim team and take advanced math and science courses all in the same school year.
ESTAAR and More
“Any mention of Episcopal and STEM must include a mention of the ESTAAR program,” says Dr. Fenske. “We are placing high school students into university labs to do independent research. It doesn’t get more authentically STEM than that.” ESTAAR or Episcopal Students Take Action in Advanced Research began during the 2012/2013 school year. Interested students are partnered with a university professor and have the opportunity for hands-on lab work. Dr. Fenske says ESTAAR students are not necessarily the “math and science” type. They are students who self-select the course because of a love of STEM. In addition to ESTAAR, Episcopal also offers students extracurricular STEM opportunities such as Mu Alpha Theta in Upper School and Math Counts in Middle School. (Last weekend, the Middle School team took third place in the high school tournament! Read more from James Moroney here.) Both competitive math programs attract a range of students from cheerleaders and soloists to athletes and actors. The Episcopal Fab Shop also provides hands-on STEM learning experiences which appeal to a range of students.
Episcopal continues to find ways to support STEM learning. In 2018, school leaders celebrated the opening of the 27,000 square foot Academic Commons, a building that now serves as the hub for Upper School math and science. Work is now underway on the 14,700 square foot Quest Center which will serve as a center for experiential-based learning and exploration for Lower and Middle School students.
The most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows nearly 8.6 million STEM jobs, with computer occupations accounting for nearly 45 percent. According to Newsweek, “The STEM skills that only specialists have today will be expected of virtually everyone in the American workforce tomorrow.” It’s good to know that Episcopal is on the forefront of preparing tomorrow’s leaders for these fields of the future, while at the same time providing an array of creative, athletic and spiritual opportunities.
To read more about Episcopal STEM opportunities, click on the links below.
Not Just for Engineers: Four Real World Skills Coding Cultivates
From Bots to Binary Messages: A Look at Computer Science at Episcopal
Budding Scientists: Science Education in Early Childhood
Raising Tomorrow’s Critical Thinkers Today
Why Can’t We Just Send Them Water? Science Lesson Elicits Thoughtful Response
Episcopal’s KnightVision robotics team is headed to the world championship competition! The team earned a spot in the finals after winning the 2019 Bayou Regional competition, which included 60 high school robotics teams. The Knights were part of the winning alliance, which included Team Chaos and Team Fusion. The championship competition is set for April 17th – 20th in Houston.
Earlier this school year, high school robotics teams received their assignment from organizers at FIRST Robotics. This year’s build theme is DESTINATION: DEEP SPACE. The competition arena is staged with mock rockets and teams are tasked with attaching hatch panels and loading cargo into a cargo ship. Teams had six weeks to build and program a robot that could accomplish these tasks timely and accurately.
KnightVision team members spent considerable time in the Design Studio, building this year’s bot. Team members exhibited impressive mechanical skills and adaptability when faced with a problem. Advisor Dr. Jeff McLean says the team also spent time while at the Rock City competition in Little Rock working on the robot to further boost the performance. The effort paid off and the students are now quite good at delivering the cargo with the robot. In the Bayou Regional, Dr. McLean says the squad faced technical challenges that they were able to quickly work through in order to continue competing. Such an ability to recover from adversity made KnightVision worthy of an alliance with the top two teams in the event.
According to the FIRST Robotics website, a robotics competition combines the “excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology.” Robotics events include all the fanfare of a sporting event with an announcer, team shirts and team banners. The events are a great way for students to build camaraderie and create alliances with students with similar interests. At the Bayou Regional, Episcopal students had the opportunity to compete against local students, as well as students from as far away as the Netherlands. This sense of community and team pride makes robotics a meaningful experience for participants.
There is more to robotics than tinkering and test driving. According to the FIRST Robotics Impact report, FIRST participants are significantly more likely to be interested in science, technology, engineering and math and related careers than a comparison group of students. The FIRST report also includes the following statistics:
In addition, the FIRST report shows that participants display greater improvements in communication, conflict resolution, time management and problem solving.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 8.8 million science, technology, engineering and math jobs in May 2016, representing 6.3% of overall employment. A robotics experience can help students determine if such a career is the right choice and the more than $80 million in scholarships available to students involved in FIRST robotics can make that dream a reality. These scholarships are offered by universities across the country, including LSU, Tulane and University of New Orleans.
Before they launch their career, KnightVision team members are first focusing on that world championship competition. Good luck in Houston! The Episcopal community is cheering you on to victory!
This year’s team is advised by Dr. Jeff McLean and Dr. Xiaoyue Jiang. This year's team sponsors are Leidos, the Honeycutt Family and Turner Industries. Thank you for your support!
Congratulations to the following KnightVision team members:
With a few tweaks and adjustments a small robot with red eyes, twirls and moves through a series of commands. At the helm of this little mechanical being is a group of seventh grade girls with a shared enthusiasm for coding.
Episcopal’s newly established Girls Who Code Club meets every other Monday in G1 during flex. Club members Cameron Augustine, Savanna Baker, Ella Barker, Mason Bruns, Nola Frazier, Kylie Kojis, Lauren McGrath and Rebekah Reid have become friends because of their shared interest. They are supportive of each other as they work collaboratively to determine why the robot is not performing the task as assigned. Even as they go through the process of trial and error, they do not become frustrated or short with their teammates. The girls are intelligent and not intimidated by the advanced coding language or the math skills required to determine a solution. In fact, when a problem arises, they simply grab a large protractor and begin working out the details.
Girls Who Code is a national organization on a mission to close the gender gap that exists in the world of technology. The organization’s website features statistics showing that fewer than 1 in 5 computer science grads are women and if current projections hold true within ten years only 22% of computer scientists will be women. Girls Who Code is working to change these stats. There are student groups in all 50 states and the organization has served 90,000 girls since being established.
“I like building,” says Cameron Augustine. “I enjoy programming,” says Ella Barker.
While there is much discussion on whether girls benefit from a learning environment without boys, this is not a concern for the Episcopal Girls Who Code members. The girls simply love coding and say they would do it whether or not the club was gender-specific. Girls Who Code Advisor Betsy Minton says she resisted creating an all girls club for several years since many of the girls said they would come either way; however, since the advent of this new club there has been a monumental increase in the number and variety of girls that attend both all girls and mixed-gender club events. Regardless of the setting, Girls Who Code members simply enjoy the experience. “It’s just fun,” says Kylie Kojis with enthusiasm. When the tiny robot obeys commands and follows tasks, the fun becomes apparent. There are big smiles among the girls and even a few dance moves. “I’m so proud,” says Cameron after troubleshooting a missed turn.
Opportunities for young girls to develop their coding capabilities are numerous. Several members of the Girls Who Code Club recently participated in the IT Girls event at Baton Rouge Community College. The citywide event provided students the opportunity to learn more about technology and meet other girls with similar interests. The girls are also very involved in the Middle School Robotics team, which is gearing up for the Regional Autonomous Robotics Circuit competition on April 6th. Many of these students also find opportunities for coding and robotics outside of school and even during the summer months.
Girls Who Code provides Middle School students a valuable opportunity to learn new skills while developing greater self-confidence and a network of supportive friends. It’s another great example of the variety of opportunities available for students to explore their individual interests. After a recent club huddle, Cameron and Kylie left to attend practice for the upcoming play. At Episcopal, balancing a variety of activities and interests is a hallmark of a well-rounded education.
According to code.org, while 90% of parents want their child to study computer science, only 35% of high schools actually teach it. Episcopal not only teaches computer science in Upper School, but also in Lower and Middle School.
As early as PreK-3, Episcopal students are exposed to computers and coding in age-appropriate lessons. For example, during Computer Science Education Week (December 3rd – 9th), Lower School students participated in a holiday-themed activity using Ozobots. Academic Technology Coordinator Betsy Minton says the bot is ideal for younger students because it can be used without a screen and it only requires a student to use colors to guide it along.
“We try to embed computer science and coding into our curriculum as much as possible in the Lower School, especially with their projects,” says Minton. She says as students progress in their educational journey, the opportunities for computer science learning also advance. “Students in fourth and fifth grade are taught more systematically through science and enrichment and eighth graders in integrated science classes learn coding,” she says. In addition, there are numerous opportunities for students to participate in robotics in Middle and Upper School. There are even opportunities specifically for female students through the Girls Who Code group who meets twice a month.
Episcopal Upper School students also have the opportunity to take AP Computer Science Principles. According to the College Board, the course focuses on the fundamentals of computing, including problem solving, working with data, understanding the internet, cybersecurity and programming. Such a course is not just for future computer programmers. The College Board lists 130 career areas and 48 college majors that may be of interest to students who take the class. These careers range from computer and information systems managers to food scientists and craft artists.
Episcopal Upper School teacher Dr. Jeff McLean teaches two sessions of the course. He says the course content is “very approachable” for students with varying degrees of computer knowledge and previous coding experience is not required. Over the course of the year, students learn about everything from binary messages and file types to the internet and encryption. The curriculum includes highlights from well-known computer gurus like Bill Gates and celebrity appearances from musicians and athletes discussing the relevance of computers in all aspects of modern life. While Dr. McLean says he realizes that not all of the 28 students taking the course will go on to pursue a degree in computer science, the course still has tremendous value. “It opens up a whole new set of tools for them,” he says.
Dr. McLean says lessons learned from the course will empower students to be creators of technology rather than simply users of technology. This process is already underway, as students become more comfortable with computer concepts and less intimidated by the topic. Ultimately, students will create their own application, which Dr. McLean says will serve as a tangible takeaway from the class that can be shared with others.
Embracing computer science and technology means more than career and salary potential. Recently, Minton spoke to Lower School students in Morning Meeting regarding the connection between computers and peace. She shared with students that people in the world are using computer capabilities to make positive changes. For example, a middle school student in Los Angeles, California created the award winning Sit With Us app after experiencing bullying in her own life. The app connects students with each other in the hope that no one eats lunch alone. Minton also told students about how UNICEF embraced the kindness of young people and their everyday activity to provide meals and resources to children in need. Students with smart devices can download an app that tracks their movement and activities and as they earn activity points, UNICEF donates food to others.
Today’s 17 year olds were born the same year that the Xbox and iPod were introduced to the world. In 2001, Windows XP, iTunes and XM Radio were also released. Computers have been a part of students’ lives from the very beginning. By learning how to harness the power and capabilities of such technology, students will be better prepared for a world of continued technological advancements.
Oregon Trail, floppy disks. What's your favorite computer memory? Share it with us in the comments below.
This week’s brush with tropical weather was a great reminder of the resources available at Episcopal. As the cone of uncertainty was plotted, teachers were making certain that electronic lessons were loaded and ready in Canvas should there be a need to close school.
Canvas is a learning management system that serves as an electronic portal between students and teachers. The platform houses the course content a teacher reviews during a class period, including slides, videos and links. It also serves as a hub for assignments, allowing students to submit their work for the teacher’s review. All of this means that as long as power and internet access is available, it is still business as usual for Episcopal students and teachers. Teachers simply enter lessons and students log in at anytime from anywhere. When a student logs in, Canvas creates a record of their virtual attendance. This record allows Episcopal to use emergency closure Canvas lessons in place of make-up days in the event that school needs to be closed.
Throughout the school year, Canvas is a critical component of a student’s Episcopal experience. Academic Technology Coordinator Betsy Minton says once a student reaches Middle School they are encouraged to manage their coursework as much as they can through Canvas. “Technology is a part of life for today’s students. This platform empowers them to take appropriate ownership of their school learning environment while learning the skills to achieve and thrive in the future,” she says.
Minton emphasizes that all communication platforms used at Episcopal are safe and private. She says an added benefit of having students manage their coursework in this manner is that they are also developing digital literacy skills and safe social media practices.
Even students in Lower School are being empowered to share information about their school day using appropriate communications tools. The Seesaw platform serves as the students’ digital portfolio, allowing students to share photos, text and even videos with family members instantly. Minton says parents love it!
“I get so excited when I get a glimpse inside their day via Seesaw,” says parent Amy Binck. She says she also appreciates that the posts stimulate after-school discussions with her second and fifth graders. As an added bonus, everything posted can be shared with other family members so even aunts, uncles and grandparents can take a peek inside the student’s day.
Students can easily share photos and information from their day using Seesaw.
There are also resources available to help Episcopal parents feel fully connected and involved in their student’s learning journey. PowerSchool, the Student Information System, houses all essential records and serves as the main resource for parent/teacher communication in all divisions. PowerSchool provides access to grades, attendance and report cards. In addition, critical and time-sensitive communication, such as an unexpected school closure, is disseminated through the
PowerSchool email system. If parents desire more frequent updates about their child’s assignments and grades, Minton says the Canvas platform also provides observer access through the website or a parent app which can be used to monitor their child’s progress throughout the year. The app can alert parents regarding their child’s performance so that parents can help their child if necessary. Members of the school’s technology team are available to assist parents with all of these tools. Minton has already trained several parents on the use of Canvas and PowerSchool. Parents who need additional assistance or training can contact Minton by emailing her and the technology team at email@example.com.
Electronic resources are valuable tools for students and families as they maneuver the academic year. As the numbers show, families are logging in and taking advantage of the information available. For example, below is a look at Seesaw activity between August 30th and September 5th:
For a complete list of resources and information on how to register for them, click on the links below.
Parent resources -https://www.episcopalbr.org/parent-resources.html
Student resources -https://www.episcopalbr.org/studentresources.html
Be sure to follow Episcopal on all of the following social media platforms.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram - @episcopalbr and Athletics Twitter - @EHSBRAthletics
Episcopal students and teachers are providing valuable feedback on the latest Google technology. When Google introduced its Google Expeditions Virtual Reality program three years ago, Episcopal helped test the program. Recently, the school had another opportunity to partner with the technology giant – this time on the Google Augmented Reality Pioneer program.
Virtual reality allows the user to explore a computer-generated simulation of a 3-D environment using VR goggles. Think virtual field trips to France or an art museum.
Augmented reality is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world. Think exploring a life-size dinosaur in a school classroom.
The AR program is run from the Google Expeditions app using phones to bring everything from the solar system and the ocean floor to the food chain of a coral reef and the world of ancient Rome to the students’ desks. The 3-D images are accompanied by short text or labels that provide discussion points for teachers and students as they examine the images together from a full 360 degree viewpoint. Recently, Episcopal educators attended a Google-led teacher training on the app in the Aldrich Library. Teachers then brought their classes to the library where they had the opportunity to test the prototype. Teachers led the lessons while the Google representative and Episcopal technology staff assisted with the hardware. Afterwards, teachers and students provided feedback to the Google staff on what features and options they would recommend adding to the app before it is released to the public.
Episcopal students are not strangers to this type of technology. Recently, Middle School science students had the opportunity to use a Merge cube to generate an augmented reality experience. By using the cube and the accompanying app, students were able to get a close-up view of the solar system right in their classroom. The students were thrilled. “I can hold the sun!” “I can spin the solar system!”
Smart implementation of technology truly engages students. The sensation of holding a planet in the palm of their hand resonates with students who have grown up in an age where the iPhone is commonplace and Netflix is normal. Embracing technology to encourage students to explore their world is an exciting component of an Episcopal education. It’s a great example of how we’re preparing our students for the workforce of the future.
Michelle Chenevert has been a part of Episcopal School of Baton Rouge since 2000. A lifelong resident of Baton Rouge, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Education and Masters of Arts in Educational Technology both from Louisiana State University. Michelle is the Director of Technology. During her time at Episcopal she has led many teacher professional development opportunities and taught an Audio/Video education enrichment for Middle School. In addition to being the Director of Technology for Episcopal, she is a Google Certified Educator and serves on the Academic Technology Team.
Tucked away amidst the hustle and bustle of College Drive, lies a Baton Rouge institution that is truly making a difference in the lives of the children it serves, as well as in the lives of Episcopal Upper School students who have partnered with the Center in class projects this year. The McMains Children’s Developmental Center provides a range of services to help children of all abilities live, work, and play independently. The staff offer occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech and language therapy, in addition to support services for the entire family. However, there’s much more to the Center than meets the eye.
Walk around the building and you’ll find a brightly colored flower garden set at just the right height to be wheelchair accessible. There’s a playground, an elaborate playhouse, and a peaceful gazebo. Inside, there is a specially built rock climbing wall and a quiet space for children who need time to process their world.
A tour with Kim Haynes, MA, CCC-SLP, the Center’s Clinical and Operations Director, also includes a trip to the Inclusion House. What happens inside this big red house is magical. It is in this house, which looks like a child-sized version of the average home, that therapists help families and children discover opportunities for the children to be a true part of their family and their environment. Families learn to take everyday objects and adapt them to their child’s needs. For example, by simply connecting objects to a switch, the child’s world opens up and they are then able to operate a blender, a can opener or even take part in family game night.
Upper School students enrolled in Episcopal’s NuVuX Design Studio courses have had the pleasure of being involved in the McMains Children’s Developmental Center magic this year. Early in the year, students spent time at the Center to observe the work being done and the assistance needed. Like most guests who walk the halls of the facility, the students were inspired by what they saw and the people they met. Upon their return to Woodland Ridge, they began to brainstorm ways that Design Studio projects could help.
What resulted were designs befitting the Center’s practices of making therapy fun. One such design was Blow Boats. Episcopal students Brice Frierson and Jack Morganti were inspired to create a boat racing track after meeting a child with a passion for boating. Their device allows a child in a wheelchair to race boats using a fan adapted to a simple switch. Frierson and Morganti added a tiny garden to the center of the device so that when the boats are not racing, the device blends in with the garden’s surroundings. Upon hearing about Blow Boats, the Center staff were so impressed that they invited the students to install the device permanently in the Center’s garden. The staff also hopes to receive the other NuVuX devices for the children to use.
“I love working with high school students,” said Anne Hindrichs, LCSW, Center Executive Director. “It showcases the tapestry of connectivity that exists as these students visit with our children and become inspired to get involved. It’s exciting to see the projects evolve from a concept to reality and it’s exciting to see the joy in the children’s faces as they get to use the designs.”
For Brice, the Design Studio experience has been personally significant in many ways. Click here to read his project brief where he describes how his NuVuX experience is something he’ll never forget.
The Blow Boats installation is just one example of the Design Studio’s possibilities. Episcopal students also created Kids Mist: a device to allow children to engage in water activities; DRAwER: a device to assist children with opening drawers and cabinets; Dogger: a fun game for kids with limited mobility; and Geaux Throw: a device that allows a child in a wheelchair to throw a ball. Watch the video below to see seniors Cameron Dumas and Noah Dupree demonstrating their Geaux Throw device.
To learn more about all of the Episcopal student innovations click here.
NuVu Studios was created by MIT graduates Saeed Arida, Saba Ghole and David Wang. The program uses the architectural studio as the mode of teaching Upper School and Middle School students. It is geared around multi-disciplinary, collaborative projects. There is a full-time school in Cambridge, Massachusetts for middle and high school students in addition to the NuVuX program, which is offered locally at Episcopal. NuVu provides any needed engineering instruction and students apply what they have learned from mainstream Episcopal academic classes. Studio students are presented with open-ended questions or challenges and asked to identify innovative tools or processes to solve them or improve upon them while working in collaborative groups. Each studio features equipment including a laser cutter, 3D printers, a vinyl cutter, a workshop and even a sewing machine and fully stocked electronics cabinet to help students make their designs a reality.
Episcopal Design Studio students will have the opportunity to celebrate their impact, and Easter, with the McMains Children’s Developmental Center’s children at the end of March. Students will be on hand for the Center’s annual egg hunt and to see how the children interact with their designs. What a great way to see a design come to life! What a powerful way to make a difference in the lives of others!
Want to learn more about the NuVuX Design Studio? Don’t miss the final showcase for this school year, which is scheduled for Thursday, May 3rd from 8:45 am to 2:30 pm in the Upper School Student Center.
Imagine if you could bring George Washington to life and help him cross the Delaware. Or maybe you want to see the characters in Charlotte’s Web actually moving and spinning. Episcopal students have the technology to do this and more.
Lower School students recently learned how Bloxels Gameboard and app helps users create their own video games. Josh Stevens, Co-Founder of Pixel Press which created Bloxels, and Richard Nava with Pixel Press’ Community Development Department visited the school to show the students firsthand how to quickly take their ideas from drawings to color-coded blocks to live action games. In no time students were playing games featuring unicorns, alien men or super heroes of their own design.
Stevens says the idea behind Bloxels is to allow students to tell a story through a video game. This happens as students create a hero, villain and background scenery. Once the blocks are in place on the 13 X 13 grid the students snap a photo with the iPad app and the image comes to life. Nava, who is a video game creator, says you used to have to know five coding languages and have a $1,000 computer to do the type of creations that can now be done simply with an app and an iPad.
Episcopal students are accustomed to technology. In Lower School they use Osmo for interactive learning on everything from spelling and counting to coding and animation. Middle School students recently used virtual reality headsets to explore distant volcanoes. There are Bee Bots, 2-D printers, 3-D printers, touch screen computers, iPads, circuit boards, and so much more.
Lower School Head Bridget Henderson says the key is to be purposeful when incorporating this technology.
Students today have so much more available to them than floppy discs and graphing calculators. Imagine what will be available twenty years from now. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that students were playing the original Oregon Trail on green screens in the computer lab!
I remember back when I was a preteen and enjoyed using three way calling - yes, a high tech feature - to connect with multiple friends. We rode bikes to the nearest playground to hang out, and our main video game systems were Atari and then Nintendo, with two player options if your friend was right beside you. Today's preteens are finding their playground online - it's called instagram, Snapchat, twitter, and a variety of other venues. Video gaming is now digital, connecting teens all over the world. Times and interests for adolescents haven't changed but the WAY they connect has shifted. The online world available to teens brings a host of new challenges in parenting.
As an adult, I enjoy technology, browsing Pinterest and Facebook in the grocery store line or while relaxing after work. The dangers that those leisurely activities present are few. But what dangers do I worry about for our children online? As a middle school counselor, my primary concerns are the physical and emotional well being of our students. Cyberbullying, online predators, and exposure to violence and pornography can be damaging to their physical and emotional well-being.
How can we, as parents, help our children navigate their digital world safely? Here are some suggestions:
For more discussion on safety in the digital world, join the Episcopal Counseling Team for a book study of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and survive) in their Digital World by Devorah Heitner, PhD on October 19th at 10 A.M. in the Alumni House Parlor Room.
Common Sense Media- https://www.commonsensemedia.org/
Teen Safe https://www.teensafe.com/
Bailey, Tricia “Talking to Your Kids About Social Media Safety” retrieved from https://identity.utexas.edu/id-perspectives/talking-to-your-kids-about-social-media-safety
Heitner, Devorah (2016) Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World. New York, NY: Bibliomotion, Inc.
Alicia Kelly has served as a School Counselor at Episcopal since 2001. As the Middle School Counselor, she has a passion for helping preadolescents reach their potential, academically, emotionally, and spiritually. Alicia holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology, Masters in Health Sciences - Rehabilitation Counseling, and is a Certified School Counselor.
“How Connected is Too Connected? Finding Balance in the Digital Age”
As I scrolled through research for this post on my iPad, my husband asked what I was reading about. “I’m researching for a blog post about the impact being connected has on our daily lives.” A knowing grin crept onto his face, and I didn’t need to ask why. I stood for a moment to satisfy the alert from my Apple Watch, cleared the notifications from my iPhone, turned on my Bluetooth headphones to stream the Beethoven station on Pandora (one of my favorite work stations), and opened my MacBook to begin writing this post.
I entered this endeavor knowing that my digital devices and media consumption have become an integral part of my daily life as they have for so many Americans. The Nielsen Company’s audience report for the first quarter of 2016 revealed that adults in the U.S. spend an average of 10 hours per day consuming media (2016). Deloitte’s Global Mobile Consumer Survey (2016) found that 77% of Americans have ready access to a smartphone and 40% of consumers reported checking their phones within 5 minutes of waking. Another interesting finding is that many individuals reported using their phones in many settings and while engaging in other activities, including shopping (93%), at work (93%), and spending leisurely time (90%).
I can’t say that I am surprised by these statistics, as they ring true for me personally. I typically check my email from my smartphone as I’m making my morning coffee and then again multiple times throughout the day. When I’m waiting in the doctor’s office or in line at the grocery store, I often find myself scrolling through my Instagram or Facebook feeds, liking and commenting on posts made by my “friends.” And anyone that knows me knows that I am an avid consumer of podcasts and almost always listen to them as I’m cleaning the house, exercising, or driving the car.
And yet, despite these benefits, I do wonder about the potential negative impact of technology in our daily lives. If we are spending 10 hours a day consuming media, what impact is that having on our relationships? If I am focused on taking the perfect photo to document a moment on social media, am I truly in that moment?
In Alone Together, MIT social psychologist Sherry Turkle (2011) laments the effects of online presence on our identity development. Where once she was hopeful that social media would provide ample opportunity to explore and “try on” different identities, the reality is that we are becoming more and more confined by the identities we create on Twitter and Facebook, putting a great deal of time and effort into cultivating the perfect online persona for our followers. Turkle also describes the infringement of technology on our relationships, such as the limits of expression and empathy through electronic communication and our device's ability to contaminate our time with others by drawing our attention away from the individual immediately in our presence.
NYU Stern School of Business psychologist Adam Alter (2017) describes the addictive nature of digital devices and social media in his book Irresistible, citing statistics that 60% of adults keep their cellphones next to them when they sleep and half of those check their emails during the night. He cautions that our relationship with our devices is to the detriment of our personal relationships, our attention spans, and our ability to retain information.
Despite these potentially negative outcomes, the reality is that digital devices and social media will likely remain a part of our daily lives and can actually enhance our lives in many ways. So how do we mitigate the bad while keeping the good?
Balance. Striving to be mindful of our media consumption and digital use and its role in our lives.
Some strategies for this include:
These are just a few ways that you can maintain more control over your digital use and avoid allowing it to control you. You could also see improvement in your personal relationships and mental well-being. I encourage you to try one or all of these as an experiment this week to see if there is any positive outcome in your life.
Alter, Adam. (2017). Irresistible: The rise of addictive technology and the business of keeping us hooked. New York, NY: Penguin Press.
Deloitte. (2016). 2016 global mobile consumer survey: U.S. edition. Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/technology-media-and-telecommunications/articles/global-mobile-consumer-survey-us-edition.html
The Nielsen Company. (2016). The Nielsen total audience report: Q1 2016. Retrieved from http://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/corporate/us/en/reports-downloads/2016-reports/total-audience-report-q1-2016.pdf
Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Jodi is a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC) and is currently serving as the Upper School Counselor at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. She has a Master’s of Education with a concentration in Mental Health and a Certificate of Education Specialist with a concentration in School Counseling from Louisiana State University. Prior to working as a school counselor, she worked in various clinical settings, including a community-based family clinic, a university mental health clinic, and a substance abuse detox facility. Jodi’s areas of focus and experience include school counseling, adolescent and family counseling, individual and group counseling, identity development, girls’ and women’s wellness, military personnel and veterans, academic and career counseling, and substance abuse treatment.