Are You an Internet Addict?

Technology addiction is surprisingly real.

By: Ufuk Yagci

The Draw: Our  Dependence on the Internet

With the evolution of Internet and advances in technology, communication has become very easy and fast. A survey conducted in Great Britain in 2014 demonstrates the positive impact of technology on relationships. With the use of the Internet and mobile devices, families and friends can stay in contact much easier than in the past. Moreover, technology has made a significant impact on people’s lives with the accessibility of information.

The Threat: Internet Addiction!

Unfortunately, the treats that the Internet offers us have some potential drawbacks.  Some people spend too much time in front of their screens and may even find themselves addicted to the Internet

But what is an addiction? Internet Addiction is defined as any online-related compulsive behaviour that interferes with people’s lives and causes stress on their environment and relations. According to the International Journal of Neuropsychiatric Medicine, one in eight Americans suffers from problematic Internet use and the rates are even higher in many Asian countries.

Is Internet Addiction a Real Disorder?

Internet addiction is a psychological disorder that has been recently proposed for inclusion in the latest edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association. DSM-V actually includes Internet addiction as a disorder that needs further study and research.  It is not an official disorder and the APA requires additional research to decide to call it an official disorder. This may be because there is not enough evidence and data to determine if Internet addiction is a separate disorder or if it has another cause. Some experts call the Internet addiction as “Impulse Control Disorder”.

What are the Symptoms of Internet Addiction?

In 1998, “Internet Addiction Test” (IAT) was created by Dr. Kimberly Young, who is a professor at St. Bonaventure University. The IAT measures the severity of self-reported compulsive use of the Internet for adults with the term “Internet” referring to all types of online activity. The scale and the test have been translated into several languages including Chinese, French, Italian, Turkish, and Korean.

Korea is one of the most wired countries in the world. The K-scale (Korea scale) has been developed as a checklist for diagnosing and evaluating the rate of Internet addiction in South Korea. It was created by psychologists to measure  Internet use under the age of 18.  The government provides health assessments and assistance to those with high K-scale scores.

Common Signals of Internet Addiction?

  • Do you have a very strong desire to use your mobile device first thing in the morning or last thing at night?
  • Do you spend more time with technology than pursuing other activities in your life?
  • Do you panic when your mobile device is getting low on power?
  • Do you get nervous if there is no Wi-Fi connection available?
  • Do you go out and meet with your friends and find yourself spending time on your mobile device?
  • Do you find it difficult to unplug? Regardless of the consequences, do you tell yourself and others that your use is a “lifestyle” choice?

If you have responded “Yes” to the majority of the above questions, then the danger bells may be ringing.

What Can you do to Prevent Technology Addiction?

The way technology addiction is diagnosed can differ from country to country, but statistics show that more people are suffering from Internet addiction. Here are some tips for preventing technology addiction:

Create technology-free zones and times at home

Ban technology at meal times. This is an excellent opportunity for you and your family to share and communicate. Make a rule not to bring technology to the dinner table.

Choose outdoor activities  on the weekends

Go for a walk, ride a bike or engage yourself and your family in any kind of healthy physical activity over the weekends. Do not forget to make this a technology-free activity.  Leave your phones at home or shut them off.


Limit social media use

Limit your use of social media in your daily routines. Do not leave notifications on for your social media accounts. Try to put time limits on your own use of social media and log off when you are done.

Make a list of technology-free activities

Create technology-free times and activities for you and your family. It is amazing how much quality time you can have without the technology. Prepare a list of activities with the family members for yourself and your family. Then try to do one each evening.

Stop always being available 24/7

Technology lets people work and be accessible no matter the place or time. Make an agreement with your co-workers on limiting digital availability outside of work.

Skip the morning digital check-in

Do not check your social media accounts or email when you just wake up.  Your social media and emails can wait until you get to work.



Additional Reading


Aboujaoude E., Koran L.M., Gamel N., Large M.D., Serpe R.T., (2006). Potential markers for problematic Internet use: A telephone survey of 2,513 adults. Retrieved from

American Psychiatric Association. (2017). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5).

BBC News. (2014). Should holiday email be deleted?

Concordina University. (2016). Navigating the unknown: Conditions for further study from DSM-V.

Commonsense Media. ( 2015). Common sense census: Media use by tweens and teens.

Healthline. (2016). What is an addiction?

Net Addiction. (2013). Internet addiction test (IAT).

Net Addiction. (2013).What is internet addiction disorder?

OECD. (2017). OECD broadband statistics update. Mobile broadband penetration at 95% in OECD area. Retrieved from

Przbylski A.K., Weinstein N., Murayama K. (2017). Internet gaming disorder: Investigating the clinical relevance of a new phenomenon.

Statista. (2014). Thinking about effects of technology on relationships with friends and family

Techaddiction. (2017). Internet addiction statistics.

Techtarget. (2011). K-scale for Internet addiction (Korea scale for Internet addiction).

Internet Trolling and the Dehumanization of Society

How destructive is Internet Trollling?

What is Internet Trolling?

Internet Trolling is the use of a negative persona or attitude online that is designed to provoke an emotional reaction from others.  TwitterFacebookYouTubeInstagram, email, chat rooms, and blogs are all places where internet trolling takes place. Internet Trolling ranges from clever pranks to harassment and violent threats. Internet Trolling can be significantly impactful on young people. In 2012, Amanda Todd, a teen from British Columbia, posted a YouTube video outlining how she was bullied by Internet trolls, and then she committed suicide shortly after.

Check it out: 10 Types of Internet Trolls You Can Meet Online

How Trolling is Dehumanizing?

Although often linked to genocide and war, dehumanization should not necessarily be limited to such extreme settings.  People on a daily basis attribute humanness, more or less, to other people (Lammers and Stapel, 2011). Dehumanization is attributable to an increased rift between people; a separation or disconnectedness many people blame on the increased prevalence of the Internet and social media. Dehumanization is one of several means by which inhibitions against harming others are overridden.  Conceiving of those whom we wish to harm as insignificant can make it permissible to do violence to them, and conceiving of them as dangerous renders such violence obligatory (Smith, 2016). 

Cognitive Dissonance is a theory that might play a role in how people’s behaviours change when they engage in online activities.  When people act in a certain way online (trolling for example), it is possible that they might change their beliefs offline to match and their online actions.  In other words, they are trying to remove dissonance or be consistent with their online and offline behaviours. For example, people who insult strangers constantly through social media may learn to be less sympathetic to people in real life.

The Rise of Internet Trolling

Internet trolling is changing the way in which people use the Internet. A Pew Research Center survey published two years ago found that 70% of 18-to-24-year-olds who use the Internet experienced harassment, and 26% of women that age said they’d been stalked online (Stein, 2016). A 2014 study published in the psychology journal Personality and Individual Differences reported that Internet users who self-identified as Internet trolls scored extremely high in dark personality traits: narcissism, psychopathy, Machiavellianism and sadism (Stein, 2016). Trolling is also causing people to disengage from social media platforms to protect themselves from Internet trolls. For example, Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones was forced to leave Twitter after experiencing racist and sexist abuse from online trolls. At what point do the benefits of digital technology become outweighed by the negatives associated with online harassment?

Useful Links


Lammers, J., & Stapel, D. (2011). Power increases dehumanization. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 14(1), 113-126. doi:10.1177/1368430210370042

Schneier, M. (2016, April 17). A ‘Battle Cry’ On Internet Trolling. New York Times. pp. 1-9

Smith, D. L. (2016). Paradoxes of dehumanization. Social Theory and Practice, 42(2), 416

Stein, J. (2016, August 18). How Trolls are Ruining the Internet. Time Magazine. Retrieved from

Social Media Use and Anxiety

We are undeniably connected with social networking such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and those alike, but mental health professionals are expressing concern when it comes to social media and the effects it can have on anxiety.

Social media use is on the rise and has been for some time. According to Perrin (2015) (as cited in Vannucci, Flannery, & McCauley Ohannessian, 2017), 90% of young adults use social media with most of them reporting the usage of 2 or more sites and visiting daily. In 2013, an estimated 3 million Canadians aged 18 or older reported having a mood or anxiety disorder (Government of Canada, 2013). With the burden of anxiety peaking and emerging in early adulthood (Vannucci, Flannery, & McCauley Ohannessian, 2017), it is no wonder why there may be some correlation.

Anxiety Towards Use of Social Media

The use of social media has been linked to anxiety in research done by Kathy Charles at Edinburgh Napier University. Her study concluded that 12% of users felt anxiety when using Facebook, 30% stated they felt guilty when ignoring a friend request, and there were negative attitudes towards updating statuses, and the rules of social media (Williams, 2014). So why are we so anxious when opening up our social media sites? 3 factors are described below

3 Factors that Influence Anxiety


As human beings, we are naturally apt to compare ourselves to others. Kind of a “Keeping up with the Joneses’” type thing. Social Media allows us to portray the parts of our lives that we want others’ to see. We are able to show the best part of ourselves, and airbrush out the rest. Social media sites allow for pointing out users insecurities and promote feelings of loneliness, competition, and envy (Lang, 2015). Your co-workers Mexico vacation may look better than your Friday night ice cream escapade, or the constant update on your cousin’s relationship may have you asking questions of why that isn’t you. Whatever the insecurity, comparing can lead to low feelings of self-worth and fear of personal failure (, 2016). It has also been said that the longer we have been using social media, the more we believe people are happier than us and the less we agree that life is fair (Chou &, Edge, 2012).

Unable to Disconnect and Relax

What happens when you lose your phone? What about leaving it at home? For some, this is the ultimate anxiety situation; How will I be connected? How will I know what’s going on? What will I do on my train ride home? Studies have shown that obsessive compulsive behaviors such as checking the phone are common. Research done by Nokia found that the average person checks their phone 150 times a day! (Ahonen, 2011, as cited in Rosen, Whaling, Carrier, & Cheever, 2013) That is every six and a half minutes during waking hours. There is panic when we are not connected, leading us to our final factor: Fear of missing out.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

The fear of missing out can be defined as “uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you” (JWT Marketing Communications, 2012, as cited in Abel, Buff, & Burr, 2016). Essentially, it is a fear that we are not included or in the know. With the rise of social media use, the FOMO phenomenon has increased and individuals are feeling more irritability, inadequacy, and anxiety (Abel, Buff, & Burr, 2016). Low feelings of self-worth can rear their ugly head, we can begin to have negative views of ourselves, and we can begin to doubt our happiness.

How Can We Limit Anxiety?

Fortunately, there are many tips and tricks said to help cope and manage the anxiety of social media use. Unfortunately, it could be a whole other blog. Take a look at some of the sites below!

Further Readings

References (2016). Is your online addiction making you anxious? Retrieved from

Abel, J.P., Buff, C.L., & Burr, S.A. (2016). Social media and the fear of missing out: Scale development and assessment. Journal of Business and Economics Research, 14 (1), 33-44.

Chou, H.T.G., & Edge, N. (2012). “They are happier and having better lives than I am”: The impact of using facebook on perceptions of others’ lives. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 15 (2), 117-121. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2011.0324.

Government of Canada (2013). Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Canada. Retrieved from

Lang, N. (2015). Facebook is annihilating your self-esteem, and you’re not alone. Retrieved from

Rosen, L.D., Whaling, K., Rab, S., Carrier, L.M., Cheever, N.A. (2013). Is Facebook creating iDisorders? The link between clinical symptoms of psychiatric disorders and technology use, attitudes and anxiety. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 1243-1254. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2012.11.012

Vannucci, A., Flannery, K.M., McCauley Ohannessian, C. (2017). Social media use and anxiety in emerging adults. Journal of Affective Disorders, 207, 163-166. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.08.040

Williams, R. (2014). How Facebook can amplify low self-esteem/Narcissism/ Anxiety. Retrieved from



How is screen time affecting your vision?

Learn what CVS is and what you can do to help decrease the symptoms.

How many hours a day do you spend looking at a screened piece of technology?

If you are like most of us, your answer could be anywhere between two and ten hours a day. You may or may not be surprised by this number if you work on a computer, own a smartphone or perhaps have a mild addiction to your Xbox, Netflix or Kindle. But have you ever felt a pounding, throbbing or aching feeling in your head after using your device? You may have Computer Vision Syndrome, or more commonly CVS. Computer Vision Syndrome is a term optometrists have given this form of eyestrain for people who look at device screens frequently.

People who look at screened devices all day require their eyes to focus on screen text, which is not as sharp as text found on a piece of paper. We also use our eyes ciliary muscles for extended periods of time to help us focus at short distances. Both of these can lead to eye discomfort and vision strain.


One way the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) suggests we combat the symptoms (which fade away after use of the device), is to follow the 20-20-20 rule. The 20-20-20 rule means we should stop staring at our devices every 20 minutes and focus on something else 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds to help give our eye muscles a break and rehydrate our eyes.

Check out the video below from the Ontario Association of Optometrists, created to help digital device users break bad screen habits affecting eye health:

Here are four ways you can help reduce digital eyestrain with links to resources for further reading:

  1. Adjust your Display Settings
  2. User Proper Lighting
  3. Exercise your Eyes
  4. Increase Text Size & Colour

Share your tips below for helping combat eye fatigue from digital device usage; we’d love to learn more tricks!

What is face-to-face communication?

Technology has changed how people communicate. But has technology changed things for the better?

By Brandon Koebel

Have you noticed that millennials would rather text a friend sitting in the same room than have a face-to-face conversation? What happened to the “good old days” of talking with friends, catching up after the weekend, or simply hanging out to catch up? Technology and social media happened.

What happened to “let’s meet up for a coffee?”

The widespread adoption of technology and social media platforms has ruined face-to-face communication. No longer is it necessary to pick up the phone and talk with someone – text messages have taken the place of phone calls and Snapchat and Facebook have replaced the need to get together with friends in order to share what is happening in life. No longer is it necessary to walk across the office to ask a colleague a question. Instant messaging allows colleagues to share information, collaborate on tasks and get instant updates on important information. Our world has changed rapidly, but has it changed for the better? Perhaps the loss of face-to-face communication will have negative effects on society. Sherry Turkle explains that some of the things we now do with our devices would have been considered odd only a few years ago.

What are the consequences of changing communication methods?

Emily Drago explores how technological advancements have altered individual communication. Drago’s study found that while 62% of study participants utilized technology while in the presence of another individual (texting, talking, listening to music), and 74% of study participants agreed or strongly agreed that it bothered them when a friend or family member utilized technology while spending time together. 92% of study participants agree that technology has negatively affected face-to-face communication.

Social anxiety has been linked with increased use of online communication (Pierce, 2009). It appears that those who utilize technology as a primary means of communication experience greater discomfort when talking with others face-to-face.

While online and technology-enabled communication is valuable in the 21st-century workforce, a 2014 Skills Gap Study completed by the Four County Labour Market Planning Board revealed that employers continue to seek employees with strong verbal communication, social and interpersonal skills.

Next Steps

Debate swirls around the topic of face-to-face communication. While some (like Professor Paul Stoller) argue that technology has created an, “increasingly large group of ‘educated’ university students who appear to be ignorant of the world in which they live,” others suggest that digital communication is a necessary and critical aspect of life in the 21st century. Personally, I feel that technology is robbing our youth of the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas out loud. Face-to-face communication remains a critical skill for a wide cross-section of careers. The ability to put forth a well-supported idea and to respond to criticism by peers or colleagues cannot be replaced by an online virtual platform. We cannot let our technology-enabled society suggest that one line answers are sufficient to explain the complexities of the events which we encounter.

Other Resources

6 Reasons to Communicate Face-To-Face

Why Face-To-Face Meetings Are So Important 

Is Technology Affecting the Way Children Sleep?

Technology is helping our children to dream bigger during the day, but is it hindering their sleep at night?

by Joshua Charpentier

Some research suggests, that kids who accessed social media devices regularly before bedtime reported sleeping nearly an hour less on school nights than those students who rarely connected online. When children don’t get enough sleep they can become cranky, moody, and can run the risk of developing a host of physical and behavioural problems. With more and more children becoming “connected” at younger and younger ages, sleep specialists are starting to see links between screen time – the use of computers, cellphones, T.V., and social media devices – and poor sleep hygiene.

Researchers from the University of Sydney determined that there is a dose-response relationship between the use of electronic devices in bed prior to sleep and sleep patterns in children. Children who overused media devices (computer, cellphones, and T.V.) experienced delayed sleep onset, decreased sleep duration, increased sleep disturbances, and difficulties achieving and maintaining sleep.

How does screen time impact sleep?

Dr. Daniel Willingham, professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Virginia, says that screen time can hamper sleep in four main ways:

  • Biological changes in adolescence – The hormones melatonin, which makes you sleepy, and cortisol, which is responsible for wakefulness are internal biological cues that establish the sleep/wake cycle. These hormone levels can change in a child as they go through adolescence. That means that the internal signals about when one should be sleepy and when one should be awake are weaker in teens than young children. This weakness in melatonin and cortisol signals means that teenagers are more susceptible to external cues such as light and sound that is keeping them awake.
  • Time of use – Frequent technology use near bedtime is associated with significant adverse effects on multiple sleep parameters. The use of electronic media can lead to delays in a child’s bedtime, decreased sleep duration, difficulty falling asleep, and daytime sleepiness.
  • Content – Engaging the brain in active or provocative events through video gaming, movie or television watching, or communicating through social media can make it more difficult for children to go to sleep. Also, evening T.V. viewing in children is associated with delayed sleep onset and daytime drowsiness.
  • Light emissions – Light from electronic devices (LED displays) may confuse the natural circadian rhythmic cycles in the body. These cycles regulate the body’s ability to fall asleep and wake up. Exposure to external (blue-wavelength) light increases alertness and suppresses the release of the hormone melatonin, which is a key factor in regulating sleep.

How can parents help children sleep?

Parents need to be aware of how and when a child is accessing an electronic device or social media. Changes can be made and could have far reaching physical, psychological, and behavioural benefits for the child.

  • Remove the screens – Arianna Huffington, author of the best-selling book, “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time”, is calling all of us, young and old, to bed. She recommends that our sleeping environments should be void of electronic devices and distractions. A sanctuary where sleep is treated with respect and ritualistically. It is through this habitual process that people can establish strong routines and practice healthy sleep hygiene.
  • Stick to a consistent routine – Letting your child stay up late on weekends is a tempting proposition. Children learn how enjoyable it is to stay up later and gives them the desire to stay up late on other nights. Establish a strong routine that requires your child to go to bed at the same time every night of the week. Maintaining a consistent wake time is also as important as an established bedtime when “sleep training” your child.
  • Remove distractions – Removing access to technology at least one hour before bed is a good rule of thumb for establishing healthy sleep hygiene practices. Performing other low-cognitive activities like playing cards, reading, writing or drawing on paper can aid with the onset of sleep. This rule should apply to all members of the family, regardless of age, to help all in the family get a good night’s sleep.

What are teachers supposed to do?

For the past several years, a pilot program in three Montreal elementary schools, led by Dr. Gruber from McGill University, developed a school-based sleep promotion program geared towards students. Results of this study were published in the May (2016) edition of the journal, “Sleep Medicine”. The intervention involved a six-week sleep curriculum program for children, to teach them about healthy sleep habits. Materials were provided to parents, teachers, and school administrators, who were then asked to consider the demands that are put on students through school schedules, extracurricular activities and homework, and what the impacts could be on sleep.

The children who were placed in the intervention group extended their sleep by an average of 18.2 minutes per night, and sleep onset decreased by an average of 2.3 minutes. These results may seem modest, but there was a marked improvement in English and Math scores amongst the intervention students in comparison to the control group who’s sleep duration did not change, and their grades did not improve.

Something to consider

For most school-aged children, this appears to be an issue of habits and routine, technology exposure and limit-setting. We adults know that we do not get as much sleep as we should, or that we do not practice healthy sleep hygiene routines. Have we removed the screens from our bedrooms? Have we created a regular routine or avoid technology before going to bed? Sleeping habits and routines should be a family priority, and is a good way to get everyone focused on what matters: waking up rested and ready to tackle the day, in mind and body.

Are there habits and routines that you use to establish and maintain healthy sleep practices in your house? What are your feelings and opinions about technology use before bed? Provide some feedback in the section below.

Making the Cut with Audacity 2.1.2



Brief Video Description (2:39)


Audacity 2.1.2 is an updated version of the Audacity audio recording freeware program. It allows users to record, edit and create audio files in a variety of formats (e.g., MP3, .WAV, .MID). This tool enables anyone, anywhere, to create high quality, audio tracks for playlists, podcasts and even video projects.  Whether you are a teacher, student, musician, beatboxer or audio recording hobbyist, this tool is for you.

Key educational benefits of this tool:

  • Use this tool to record student presentations, and musical or dramatic performances
  • Create and send short audio clips to students for immediate feedback
  • Use Audacity to easily create Podcasts of lessons, or teach students how to create their own podcasts
  • Students can record and edit musical performances to publish in portfolios or for reflective exercises
  • Audacity provides the potential for teaching students how to sample, create loops and create backing tracks for beatboxing or rapping
  • Use to support ESL students in practicing and reviewing their new language



Access Details and Cost

Audacity 2.1.2 is a free download! No cost is required for the full version of the program. Donations to the creators of the program are suggested but not required.

Audacity is a multi-platform program available for both Apple AND Microsoft.


Getting Started

How to Use Audacity (5:43)


Teaching Ideas

Idea 1 – Speech Preparation and Feedback (Grade 7, Language Arts)

Learning to speak clearly and effectively in front of an audience can be challenging and quite threatening. Audacity provides a way to rehearse, listen to, polish and re-record an oral presentation. In addition, if you have a particularly shy student, you can provide recording their speech as an alternative.

Want to create some instant feedback for the students? Record your comments on your phone or mobile device, then save and send it to your computer. Audacity can open the file and allow you to copy, cut or paste any segment of your recording to be used to help your students in their journey of learning. Just sent them the file.

Idea 2 – Readers/ Radio Theatre (Grade 6, Reading/ Oral Communication)

Want to provide your students with a realistic way to present their drama or script reading? Why not have them record it in Audacity to create a radio play? They can listen to the file, edit or re-record and even add sound effects, and background music.

Idea 3 – Instrumental Music Recording Projects (Grade 7 – 12)

One of the best ways for students to improve at playing their instrument is to be able to listen to their own performance and reflect on it. Using Audacity, students can record their performances, both individually and in groups. They can even create multi-track recordings one track at and time and combine them for a truly complex sounding piece of music.

Are your students needing to create an audition recording for college or university? Audacity makes it easy and free to create quality sound recordings to use for their application portfolio.

Idea 4 – Sound Editing, Mixing and Sampling (Grade 10/11 Music, Open)

Are your students interested in pursuing a career in sound engineering or computer technology? Programs like Audacity allow for easy entry into these complex areas. With many great informational websites and “how to” videos available, students can get right into recording, editing, and sampling with just a computer with a microphone.

Idea 5 – Podcast Interviews with Historical/ Cultural Figures (Grade 12, Canadian History)

Are you tired of having your students complete the same old presentations in front of the class yet again? With Audacity, they can create professional sounding podcasts to present their knowledge about anything from geographical regions to Canadian history the 1940’s. Why not have them record an interview with a member of the community and make it into a podcast to share with the class? It’s easy with Audacity.


Helpful Resources

Resource 1 – Complete Tutorial for Beginners

A full explanation of the various aspects of using Audacity 2.1.2 for beginners. Functions and terminology are clearly explained.

Resource 2 – Complete Operations Manual

The complete text based resource to answer all your questions about Audacity 2.1.2

Resource 3 – How to Create a Podcast in Audacity

Interested in creating your own podcasts? This brief tutorial will show you the basics of creating one.

Resource 4 – Recording a Song with Audacity

This is a VERY detailed video of how to create a music recording with melody and background track. It also explores some editing options and effects.


Resource 5 – How to Create a Rap with Audacity

Ever want to try your hand at rap? Thought your students might enjoy some rhythm with your poetry unit? This is how we do it. (Caution: contains some explicit lyrics)




Submitted by Mark McPhail



Twitter: @treblebasschal1


Bio: Mr. McPhail is a musician, teacher, and student of technology.  He has taught in a variety of grades and subjects over the last 18 years. Currently, Mr. McPhail teaches high school music for the Peel District School Board.  His passion is to see students, not only survive, but thrive in their teenage years.



Truth About Tech Use & Focus

The decreasing level of attention span in our…what was I saying?

Technology is providing amazing and entertaining new ways of learning and doing that were not available years ago. Students have access to countless sources of information, and knowledge. They also spend countless hours viewing a multitude of sites designed distract, entertain and engage their attention, often in the classroom, while they should be paying attention to the lesson. With policies in school boards that encourage students to bring their own devices (BYOD) to school, is it any wonder that teachers struggle with keeping the minds of their students on task?

Even in the “real world” adults in the worlds of business and industry easily fall prey to the countless distractions available through social networking, emails, twitter feeds, and even checking the stock market every 5 minutes.

It seems apparent that our society is changing at its core. As technology is becoming more invasive in our everyday lives, we can see the results can be disastrous at times. In one example, cities and counties around Canada are adopting laws that are geared a cutting down on distracted driving, as people are being killed or are sustaining life-altering injuries because they cannot put their cell phone down.

What is the story behind this fight for our attention? What can we do about it?

What is technology doing to our brain?

Though research in this area is taking place, it is still early in its development. In the field of neuroscience, professionals like Dr. Gary Small are studying the effects of technology on the brain. In an article, Dr.Small (2008) states that our brains are developing and learning to master the ability to process and respond to multiple digital stimuli which in turn provide instant gratification. These changes do lead to shorter attention spans and a lack of interest in other activities that provide a delayed reward like reading or even watching a longer television program or movie.

This information coincides with other research conducted by specialists such as Dr. Rich who also believe that the brains of our young people are being habituated to distraction and away from focus.

How can we help ourselves? How do we, as educators, cope with this in the classroom?

What can we do?

In some articles, researchers like Dr. Taylor (2012, December 4) suggest that it may not be a case of technology being all bad, but about which technology children use and in its frequency of use.  Others such as della Cava (2010, August 4) also take a very common sense approach in suggesting that we need to monitor ourselves and teach our students and children to set limits on use and take breaks.

The reality is that developments in technology are going to keep coming. We need not take the position as many did in the 1970s and 1980s thinking that television would destroy the brains of our youth. It did not, and technology, if used properly with self-discipline will not.

Since we have such vast tools at our disposal, I encourage educators to rise to the occasion. Put a few past teaching practices aside. Take interest in a new digital tool or two this month. Find a way to connect with your students at their level. Personally, in trying to incorporate more technology, I am seeing greater engagement and enjoyment in my students.

Help Yourself

If it is you who is struggling with finding a good balance with technology, there are a variety of online tools and resources available to you to help with distraction.  A few tools to get your started are listed below. Hang in there!

1.Focus (Mac)

2.Focusbooster (Mac/PC)

3.Freedomto (Mac/PC)

4.Dejal:Time Out (Mac)

Physical Impact of Prolonged Technology Use

Millennials are the first generation in history to have their entire lives wrapped in digital technology. Millennials, unfortunately, will be humanities guinea pigs when it comes to research into the long-term physical toll technology use puts on our bodies. As a result of having no historical data to compare some critics may make the claim that the health concerns being put forth by the medical community are simply guesswork by so-called experts, but early studies are already indicating that millennials are showing early warning signs of physical health problems.

“Tech Neck”

We have all seen people (not just millennials) walking about with their heads tucked down staring at their cell phone as they walk through busy crowds. Prolonged bouts of this kind of behaviour can lead to what refers to as ”tech neck”. Alexandre & Radcliffe (2016) state “Tech neck is one of the most noticeable effects of using a cell phone or smartphone for long periods of time. Over time this poor posture can increase wear and tear on the spine”.

Being mindful of posture and your bad habits regarding technology use can help alleviate some of the health issues caused by our mobile devices. has a great article with helpful tips and tricks to combat tech neck.

Weight Issues

As we spend more and more time in front of computer screens and mobile devices we are limiting the amount of time we can spend exercising. Over time the years of technology use combined with a lack of physical exercise can lead to weight gain and even obesity.  Paula (2015) states “as children spend more time sitting in front of the TV or computer, they spend less time outside running around and burning off calories — and energy” (para. 2).

The Harvard School of Public Health has a great article discussing the importance of physical activity and some worldwide trends in this area. You can find out more by reading their article Obesity Prevention Source.

Getting Good Sleep

It isn’t just millennials who are suffering from overuse of technology. Many of us spend too much time staring at screens as we begin our nightly bedtime routines. I admit that the last thing I do before going to bed at night is to take a quick scroll through my Twitter timeline. Hurmiz (2014) states “screens ambient glow also affects melatonin release or also known as sleep chemical” (para. 8). There are some easy solutions to these kinds of bedtime routine problems. The most obvious is to remove screens from your nightly routine. Of course, we will try anything to hang on to our tech using the most ridiculous of excuses. I myself am guilty of using the excuse “but my phone is my alarm clock”, fortunately, alarm clocks can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of your phone.

Moving Forward

I hope to make some changes in my personal and professional life that hopefully gets my screen time back under control. As educators, we need to start getting our students up and moving a bit more. Yes, daily physical activity is mandated in a lot of boards and schools, but even getting the students moving within the classroom is a win. We need to take care of ourselves as well. If you work in an office try getting up at least once an hour to get your blood circulating and to rest your eyes a bit. Using some of the tips and tricks you can find at any decent health and fitness website is a good start to combatting what experts think are going to be some fairly significant health issues if we don’t get a handle on our technology use.

Useful Websites


Alexandre, R., & Radcliffe, S. (2016)Is Technology causing a lifetime of pain for millennials? Retrieved from

Hurmiz, J. (2014, November 15). What are the long term effects of living in a technological world? Retrieved from

Paula, E. (2015, December 11). Obesity in children and technology. Retrieved from

3 Roadblocks in Teaching Technology to Educators


Technological tools can be used in many ways to further student learning. The continued growth and innovations in educational technology are both exciting and challenging.

With the development of 21st-century technology, it is important to provide quality professional development (PD) for administrators and staff members in schools.  As there is an increasing amount of innovative technology being introduced, school boards must ensure that employees are not only familiar with the technology, but also become comfortable learning more about it independently.

In today’s classroom, the teachers really are life-long learners. This is not only a nice idea, it is a must! In many cases, staff are introduced to these tools during meetings or professional development sessions. In my experience, even when tools are introduced and explored, there follows a period where some staff engage in trying to use the new tools, while many do not.

What are some of the barriers in training staff members with new technology? What are causing the roadblocks in the pathway from introducing the technology to implementation? How can they be removed?

Lack of Context, Lack of Connection

According to Plair (2008), one of the reasons that teachers struggle with implementing technological tools is that they miss the connection between what they have learned in training sessions and how to use it in their own specific teaching areas (p. 71). She indicates that some educators still struggle with changing their prior understanding to see that technology is no longer something mainly explored in the computer lab or Communication Technology courses.

One solution is mentioned by Plair. “Helping teachers comfortably reach this stage calls for the professional development available through a knowledge broker.” (p.71)

This knowledge broker, within school boards or organizations, would possess a “…combination of pedagogical, content, and technological knowledge…” and could “…more effectively and efficiently scaffold instruction, match tools to content, and keep pace with innovations” (p.73). An expert such as this could help bridge the gap between the new tools and the classroom teacher through offering one-on-one support.

 Lack of Time

Educators are heavily involved with the everyday tasks of running classes, planning lessons, supervising, marking, communicating with parents and running extra-curricular activities. Because of the sheer number of tasks requiring the focus and attention of the teacher, adding any new knowledge, skills or technological training can overwhelm and discourage.

Not surprisingly, the results of a study completed by McRae, Phil, Varnhagen, Stanley, & Arkison, Bradley in 2011 found that “…competing demands on time are the most significant factor restricting a teacher’s ability to provide instruction. (McRae et al., 2012)

If teachers are already burdened with other responsibilities, their willingness and ability to connect with PD on modern technology is diminished.

What could be done to provide more time or assistance?

 Information Overload

Aside from the busyness of each instructional day, a major barrier for teachers in increasing their knowledge of technology is one of sheer volume. According to a study by Lawless and Pellegrino (2007), “Long term change through technology-infused pedagogy is…complicated by the ever-evolving nature of the technology itself.” (p.607)

As teachers become comfortable with one technology, other new and exciting tools emerge. This may cause increasing stress, leading to a break-down of innovative teaching and learning in the classroom. According to an article by Dr. Willis (2014), this stress negatively affects the brain’s ability to learn. What is true for our students under stress is true for us too!

 What else could be done?

It is safe to say that teachers who genuinely care about their students have a desire to improve their own practice to help them succeed. They will continue to learn and attend professional development seminars, often voluntarily.  Those who attend PD to gain new knowledge to aid their pedagogy and practice show notable satisfaction in learning and teaching technology (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007).

Much is seems to be written about the need to engage our students in 21st century learning. Could not more be done to support the frustrated, overwhelmed teacher?

Dr. Willis (2014) suggests that better learning and engagement takes place when positive motivation is present. That may be something to think about.



Willis, Judy (July 18, 2014). The Neuroscience Behind Stress and Learning. Edutopia. Retrieved from

Lawless, K. A., & Pellegrino, J. W. (2007). Professional development in integrating technology into teaching and learning: Knowns, unknowns, and ways to pursue better questions and answers. Review of Educational Research, 77(4), 575-614. doi:10.3102/0034654307309921

McRae, Phil, Varnhagen, Stanley, & Arkison, Bradley (June 4, 2012). Teaching any time, any place or at any pace. ATA Magazine. Retrieved from

Plair, Sandra Kay. (2008). Revamping professional development. The Clearing House, 82(2), 70-74. Retrieved from