Sunday Teacher Reflections: Awaken our Students from the Digital Trance

Sunday January 17th 2016

Sunday Refelections
An article by Richard James Rogers: High school Science teacher and author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management.

As I sit at a delightful little Starbucks at Bangkok’s Central Ladprao shopping mall (with iced Earl Grey tea on tap!), I am compelled to reflect on a distressing article I read earlier this week which ought to make all teachers think about how to update our school curricula to reflect modern trends and issues facing our schoolchildren.

The article I am referring to is the shocking report by Natural News on Thursday which makes it explicit that more people than ever before are turning into mental ‘zombies’ due to over – exposure to smartphones (dumbphones?) and other handheld devices. People are walking right into traffic, falling off cliffs, getting mugged and even falling off train platforms whilst being distracted by their favourite gadget. Smart device distraction is fast becoming a global epidemic, with America’s own National Safety Council reporting that 80% of all emergency room visits now result from falls caused by smart-device distraction.

As teachers, shouldn’t we be educating our learners about the perils of succumbing to this ‘digital hypnosis’? As a regular  commuter on Bangkok’s BTS Skytrain, and a frequenter of many a shopping mall  (a new one seems to pop up every five minutes in this city), I feel like a lone ranger in a sea of brain-dead automatons. Am I the only one who’s awake? Am I the only one who’s aware of my surroundings?

Our students deserve to experience this reality as we experienced ours as kids: by playing with our friends (actually playing: physically, not virtually), getting mucky, running through puddles and streams and building sandcastles on beaches. We weren’t concerned with taking selfies and wefies every five minutes, and we didn’t photograph our food before we ate it.

I worry that our young people are losing a sense of who they really are and what they’re really capable of: substituting a life of substance for a digital puppet – show in which beauty, ‘likes’, popularity and number of ‘friends’ are the new success criteria.


Social media has a lot to answer for – but should we blame the knife that stabbed, or the person who wielded it? Many people capitalise on the benefits of social media for audience engagement, communication and marketing. Perhaps our PSHE and ICT curricula need to focus on showing young people how to use these tools effectively, whilst also teaching about the effects of digital addiction and how this can be fatal, as well as how it can be avoided and overcome.


High School Science and Mathematics Teacher, Author and Blogger. Graduated from Bangor University with a BSc (Hons) degree in Molecular Biology and a PGCE in Secondary Science Education. Richard also holds the coveted Certificate in Mathematics from the Open University (UK). Richard is the award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management: 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know

3 thoughts on “Sunday Teacher Reflections: Awaken our Students from the Digital Trance

  1. True. We are becoming zombies, oh no! But maybe we should just accept the fact that life changes. Technology is advancing yes. And very quickly. Probably soon we will be living most of our life in virtual reality. But this isn’t something we should try to stop. It’s just the future and humanity making progress. If we always had the mindset that the good ol days are the best we would still be churning butter in the backyard. We now have all of the world’s knowledge in our pocket. Yes we usually dont use that ability for anything more than Facebook or Snapchat, but that’s just society’s fault, not the fault of our phones. Let’s embrace the phone zombie culture and move forward towards the matrix.

  2. For as long as I can remember, some teachers have blamed technology in various forms for students’ lack of achievement. In my youth it was too much time spent watching TV and listening to pop music, then came the age of the video. Now it’s smart phones and social media. My local secondary school has even banned students from using social media in their break times, as it “impairs their social skills”
    Some time ago, I attended an excellent INSET workshop on how to integrate smartphone technology into ESL teaching, using recordings, videos, photos etc. As educators, shouldn’t we by striving to embrace new technology in the classroom? As an older teacher about to retire, I am fairly un-tecky and inept at all this, but at least I’m willing to have a go!

  3. Hey Richard the teacher!

    Love the blog.

    I just wanted to say that as a young man who grew up just before the internet boom really took off, I have long thought that my generation, and even more so the generation after mine, has become completely addicted to looking at screens.

    It’s so bad that often times if you go out to dinner with a group of people, everyone will be looking at their phones.

    The digitalization of our lives has gotten so bad that people are beginning to base their actual personalities off of their edited and fake internet egos, instead of their actual living breathing persona.

    I fear our children will evolve to have eyeballs that can withstand looking at screens for 48 plus hours.

    Anyway, thanks for the interesting read.

    Justin Ruhe

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