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Ten tips for digital dieting

By Tara Brabazon - posted Wednesday, 22 January 2014


Are you confusing Pinterest with poststructuralism? Your Twitter with Trotsky? Is oversharing replacing reading? Did you type 'twerking' into Google? Is the Instagram drip feeling of animal print onesies starting to transform your clothing choices at work? If so, then it may be time for a digital diet. These ten tips provide strategies to manage the information obesity and digital gluttony that punctuates our schools and universities.

1. Do not confuse more information with quality information.

Very often the rule for Kim Kardashian's makeup – more is always better - is applied to information. Actually, less is more. Use fewer media to create more meaning. Simply because information is accessible and available through the Google search engine does not mean that it is appropriate for teaching, learning and education. The caliber of information necessary for a doctoral thesis is distinct from that required for a local pub quiz. Select media platforms and channels with care. Do not choose Facebook to conduct an argument with your spouse. Do not give feedback to students via text message. PROPS? ROFL? Indeed.

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2. Slow down.

The fast dominates the slow. This maxim creates problems in education. Scrolling supplants reading. Texting replaces writing. A recent study showed that the average text message is read in one minute and replied to within five minutes. Most text messages involve boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives and food. These are not important topics. But the speed of delivery (falsely) signifies urgency. Simply because One Direction is trending on Twitter does not mean anything important is happening. By slowing down, consciousness and interpretation re-enters the information landscape.

3. It's dead, Jim.

Discard dead media. For new media to be born, old media must die. At the moment, the obsession for the new has not involved the attendant emptying of the trash. This means that classrooms and curricula are punctuated by the obsolete. Do not stay wedded to old media because of fear or a lack of professional development. Do not be drawn to new media like a siren's call. Instead, consider this equation: New Media + Old Media = Useful Media.

4. Stop oversharing.

Your life is not like herpes. It is not meant to be shared with everyone. Stop the proliferation of information. No one on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yammer, YouTube, Flickr and Academia.edu needs to know about last night's party. Be considerate with the presentation of information. Select one appropriate channel, platform, medium or application for your ideas by understanding the level, literacy, aims and interests of the audience.

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5. Stop the interruptions.

We live in a highly disruptive and distorted culture. Simple tasks are clouded by a cacophony of interruptions, constantly answering email, checking if anyone 'likes' your Facebook update, and monitoring LinkedIn recommendations. This creates a working day of micro-attention. Tom Chatfield recently described our current lives as based on an 'attention economy.' The problem is that Miley Cyrus's tongue gains more attention than serious problems with timetabling or assessment. To focus – to claim back our attention economy – is to control the delivery of information. Turn off the constant notifications from social media.

6. Reduce the student-dependency on learning materials (like PowerPoint slides) that can move through time and space.

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About the Author

Tara Brabazon is the Professor of of Education and Head of the School of Teacher Education at Charles Sturt University.

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