When I started working as a school counselor over 15 years ago, classroom technology was very different than it is today. Only a handful of students had personal devices, and the concept of a one-to-one model where every student was given a school-issued laptop or tablet had not yet taken hold. At the time, students rarely accessed the internet or used digital tools during class, typically only in technology-focused classes. Today, most of her teens have access to smartphones, and more than 80% of her K-12 students use school-issued devices as part of their learning. Students are more connected than ever, inside and outside the classroom.
Increased access to technology in this school has both positive and negative impacts on students. For some, the Internet has proven to be a very engaging and useful learning tool, but for others, the constant flow of information can be overwhelming. It is important for educators to help students use technology purposefully to support learning.
It may seem counterintuitive, but technology and certain digital tools can help give students a sense of calm and strengthen their thinking in the moment.
Here are five ways I’ve seen technology help treat brain overload.
1. Mental health check-in at the start of class
The short time between classes can be hectic as many students physically move from one classroom to another and prepare mentally to dive into a new subject. Hallway transit time can also be filled with stressful social interactions and browsing social media.
A health check at the beginning of class is a great way to help students regain focus and focus their thoughts. You can help with these sentiment checks with simple online tools like Pear Deck, Google Forms, and Kahoot that allow you to survey your class. Ask questions such as, “How are you feeling today?” or “What color best describes your mood today and why?” Allowing students to answer anonymously could be a game changer in your classroom .
2. Mindfulness App
Helping students practice mindfulness, the ability to be present in the moment and to recognize thoughts, emotions, and sensations, can have significant mental health benefits well beyond the classroom. In addition to non-technical strategies such as paper mood boards, mindfulness dice, and breathing exercises, there are free digital tools and apps such as Calm and Headspace to guide students through mindfulness exercises in group or individual settings. can do.
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3. Private Digital Feedback
Some students are reluctant to raise their hand in class or ask for feedback in a group environment. Leveraging solutions with chat capabilities and enabling real-time digital feedback on student work are great ways to attract students who prefer more private communication.
There are also certain classroom discussions where anonymity is key. Anonymous feedback helps educators foster honest and open conversations when there is a sensitive nature of the conversation and even the teacher doesn’t need to know whose answer is who. This way students are more comfortable sharing their responses knowing they are anonymous. Take advantage of digital tools that support this kind of secure engagement.
4. Audio & Visual Tools
The classroom environment can directly affect a student’s learning ability. Adding calming music, videos, or lighting can help students feel at ease and create a more peaceful learning space. Music has been proven to help us focus, and endless playlists with classroom-friendly songs are available through services like Spotify and YouTube. Projecting videos of fireplaces, beach waves, and slow-moving clouds in front of classrooms during working hours can also help create a more relaxed atmosphere.
5. Digital guardrail
If students are using school-issued devices, it may be helpful to set prudent guardrails or parameters regarding which web pages can and cannot be accessed during class. A specific filtering solution or classroom management product can help narrow or broaden Internet access depending on what is needed for the day’s lesson. This keeps students focused on the task at hand and reduces information overload and distraction.
For today’s overloaded students, a calm learning environment can serve as a much-needed moment of tranquility. As classroom technology continues to evolve, educators and school mental health professionals can use strategies like the one above to help students navigate the digital world with purpose.