The goldfish effect is causing an alarming shortening of the human attention span; what can the education sector do to combat it?

Mobile devices are now part of our everyday life, with social media dominating a high percentage of our screen time. As a result, this has created the ‘goldfish effect’, alarmingly shortening the human attention span, especially among children.

Having grown up in the digital world, the younger generation is more vulnerable to the goldfish effect, which has impacted their ability to focus on anything else they feel is less interesting. This can interfere with crucial areas of life such as academic performance, but by refocusing the younger generation’s attention on interactive learning and reinforcing a day with limited social media, schools are able to combat the impact that social media apps have on sleep, academic performance and mental health.

Social media’s reinforcing nature makes platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok addictive

By releasing dopamine, the feel-good chemical, social media’s reinforcing nature makes platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok addictive for users and as a result can decrease, disrupt and delay sleep, link to mental health issues and impact memory loss.

On an educational level, if social media is not monitored, it can have a detrimental effect on academic performance, especially on maths and literacy skills for future generations. Suppose users are using media platforms to excess. In that case, it can become hard to focus on tasks such as completing homework and studying because social media intervals are taken which disrupts the ability to process and complete tasks.

So, what does this mean for young people in school where engagement is invaluable in keeping those being educated interested and focused?

Over the shoulder view of executive team listening to mature female CEO presenting project plans for the coming year.
Image: © AzmanL | iStock

Enhancing the assimilation of new information using interactive projectors

Whilst the effects of social media are concerning, educational organisations cannot simply cut out a student’s consumption of mobile devices entirely. Instead, importance should be placed on emphasising ways in which students can become encouraged to put down their devices and focus on learning instead.

The challenge educational organisations have is, how does one capture the attention of a generation whose focus lies in the hands of a major source of distraction. The answer is further along the digital landscape, with interactive projectors.

It is proven in museums that exhibitions using technology and projectors will increase the number of visitors who want to be part of a more tangible experience. Likewise, cinemas offer immersive experiences that create a thrill that social media cannot necessarily fulfil for their audience. For example, immersive screenplay including the likes of 3D offers the audience something that will leave them not wanting to open an app during screen time.

The use of interactive projectors within an education setting can help create an immersive experience due to the ability to visually stimulate its users and increase the attention span of students even in large classrooms. In turn, this increases class participation and the absorption of information as presentations help avoid and misread what would alternatively be written on a whiteboard – this has resulted in interactive learners scoring 25% higher in certain tests. As well as this, educators can tailor their teaching style to prevent children and young adults from switching off – making projectors integral to enhancing the assimilation of new information as the projector adds a lever to the teaching-learning process.

Reinforcing interactivity by drawing the focus of students

For example, interactive classroom projectors are used in classrooms to reinforce interactivity by drawing the focus of students towards the front of the class and away from their mobile devices. By offering interactivity, this way has the potential of being transformative. The product itself encourages group participants to be taken seriously, and to optimal focus. Unlike handheld devices, projectors offer in-person digital experiences that cannot be consumed remotely.

This is especially common at universities where projectors are a popular choice for displaying content. This is because they offer the means to reach students in a different way, offering a new way of learning experiences. An example of this is being able to delve into 3D visuals on a large screen and actively participate in the lesson which is particularly useful for medical students when exploring the different elements of the human body.

With an understanding that social media has had an impact on concentration, PowerPoint presentations provide students with something that they can refer to once the class has finished. As a result, students do not need to worry that they feel behind or lack understanding in certain subjects because they can go at a pace that suits them better.

Helping restore the academic potential of students

The type of projector used is key for optimal effect and student engagement. For classrooms, it is recommended that research is done prior to investing in a projector as certain features are key for use within classrooms. This makes the investment beneficial for both the teacher and the student alike. For example, interactivity, learning tools, projector power and energy-saving features. Not only will these features help optimise student focus, but they will also conserve energy and money in the long run as they will automatically switch off if left running at the end of a school day. With a wide choice to choose from and new technological advancements, educational organisations are spoilt for choice.

The demand for projectors is expected to continue in schools due to learning opportunities, reliability, cost efficiency and laser technology – it is clear the projector remains central to the world of learning. Therefore, the time to act in helping restore the academic potential of students is now.



Written by Royce Lye, Managing Director UK & Ireland at BenQ


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