Interview with Jocelyn Brewer: Thoughts on Digital Nutrition - Issues Relating to Technology, Psychology, and Learning

Interview with Jocelyn Brewer: Thoughts on Digital Nutrition - Issues Relating to Technology, Psychology, and Learning

Online media has been generating big buzz. As the online media space evolves, we can see educators adopting and implementing various technologies to improve instruction, engage students better.

But still many educators and parents don’t know how to work further on it to bring it to classrooms effectively; they don’t have a starting point. And this is where people like Ms. Jocelyn play a role.

Jocelyn Brewer is a registered psychologist based in Sydney, Australia. She works both in public schools (across K -12) and in private practice. She consults, speaks and writes on issues relating to technology, psychology, and learning.

So that our audience gets to know more about you, tell us about yourself experience, projects and achievements.

I Started as a high school social science teacher nearly 20 years ago with no idea what I wanted to do and I taught high school social science for a long time for about 5 years. I got a scholarship to become a school counselor about 7 years ago and then a psychologist around 3 and a half years ago. When I was under training, I had to do some research projects and at that time I was really interested in what was happening over Internet with kids and technology. Humans and technology; my particular area I guess is around what happens when there is overuse of technology or their is misuse of technology. How does psychology and technology interact and how does it benefit.   

You have been talking a lot of Digital Nutrition; can you define it for us? Is there any reason for terming the framework as digital nutrition?

Rather than talking about Internet addiction or smartphone addiction and all the addiction stuff, which I think is really stigmatizing, which creates a bad picture of people with technology, I prefer talking it as Digital Nutrition. So digital nutrition takes the other approach about how can we set up principles of using technology that supports and nourish us same as we think and know about food and health nutrition. The coins of diet or the way we feed our children might be very different to what you feed a teenager. It’s thinking about technology from the point of view of what you conceive and what goes in in your mind and what you take to your brain and it is designed to be positive and proactive way of considering technology.          

Being a 21st century educational leader, share your understanding of new ways how children are learning now, how’s it completely different to the way we used to learn?

The thing is that we got so good at technology and with the access to Wi-Fi everywhere and the expectation of using technology as it can magically engage kids. The generation gap can create problems though as those resisting change is one thing that can be noticed. Teachers are struggling using technology and with the numerous applications, games and tools that can be applied in learning activity that is super confusing and then you have the parents struggling with the leisure side of this thing. It’s basically everywhere and suddenly we have the powers in our pockets and still I am working in a school where you can’t take a smartphone into the classroom.

According to you, what is the right age to introduce technology to kids for learning?

I can think about it like a diet or nutritionist, like my kid will start eating more complex food after 6 months similarly the way that technology is introduced to kids should be thought about carefully and I think the best time to introduce technology is really the point at which their learning is gonna be enhanced by it. The point when you cant really learn anymore from the blocks or the coloring or climbing and the other lots of things so then you actually need to do something more. Also you have to shape kids in a way that gonna support their learning needs. Holistic approach is needed.

Walk us through your research, how does technology impact our psychology and overall physical and mental health? Is that for positive?

When I look at my old research kids basically use media. And a lot of the kids who really got to the point where they use technology too much, many of them grew out of it. My research was around 30 boys of age 16 at that time and there wasn’t too much terrible stuff going on.  

You will always find some naysayers, but how much are you in favor of game based learning? What would your support points be?

Game based learning is just another way. There are also the types of brain training games that are specifically designed to things like ADHD games and few interesting examples neuron racer gamed that is dealing with ADHD and other games that help kids develop prefrontal cortex & executive functioning that helps kids develop more. These games are not like grand theft auto that will make kids explore the town of Los Angeles or something like that. These are specifically designed to develop skills and minds.  

What are the tips for educators and parents watching this to avoid and prevent Internet addiction for themselves and their kids?

It’s not just the kids that we find and we have to stop by thinking at what point is the technology is problematic. At what point is that slipping from something that I do for 20 minutes to relax when I come home from school into something that I do instead of going to school or something that I do because I am really socially anxious because of playing into the playground so going to a game or compare everything. So my tips around this is to basically communicate with your kids it really comes down to setting rules or limits but actually communicating about your expectations and values, desires and goals for your kids are and then getting that to come in line as how technology can help them get that rather than having a combustion that says you only got an hour a day and I am gonna come and cut off your game in middle really comes down to individualizing what technology looks like in different houses and that’s again all about individualizing learning. So it has to come back to communication and what is it look like to have a healthy relationship with technology. What parents get to think about is the functions and the context of the game play or the technology use.   

What do you suggest should be a starting point for school transformation? When do you understand that the current system requires change?

I think we can transform schools but we have to look at the capacity and engagement of teachers in change. If you have teachers that are not engaged into change then you are going to have an acute battle. So I would say that the first thing we really need to do is check in on not just the professional development of the teachers but also to a little degree not in an intrusive way but as so the personal developments can take place because I see that the personal and professional are so interlinked that we need to consider why our teachers teach the other styles. And that change can really bring up a lot of stuff to people so I think we have to accept that to some degree change in schools is needed and change in techn0logy is rapid so we have to find a way to reconcile those. To some degree the Scholl transformation will start with patience.         

What are some of your favorite tools for personal learning and development?

The reason I got into this area is that I love my technology so much. One app that I always talk about is called smiling mind. It takes ranges of exercises and mind engaging exercises and also you can select your age group and access to quizzes. It starts from 7-11 years old.

How has the career journey been for you till now? What/Who motivates you? Any thought leader(s), which you follow for success?

Pretty much everyone I follow on Twitter have lots of right thing to say. I went to America for 5 weeks and talked to few people who are sort of in my gang now. If you will follow me on Twitter, you will see tweets and resources from me and that gang.


You can read more on Digital Nutrition by Jocelyn Brewer, here.

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