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Taking advantage of tech

Trends are transitory by nature, but as we witness the surge in digital technologies, we must understand how these trends reshape student life

Posted by Julian Owen | October 28, 2017 | Technology

by The Russell Partnership’s Professor David Russell and Charlotte Harbour

The ubiquity and requirement for digital technologies, most notably smartphones and laptops, brings about an opportunity to educate students and staff on advantageous digital applications and methodologies for optimising wellbeing, academic prowess and social engagement within the campus arena. The digital population is more cautious than ever – they’ll reject innovations and brands that don’t align with their personal values and requirements, however, as an academic and lifestyle support system we may be able to deliver a “push in the right direction” to enable student and staff actualisation…

The surge in wellness-related trends continues to flourish, and digital aids that support positive wellness practices may prove beneficial to students and staff alike. Mindfulness smartphone apps such as Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer facilitate meditation and relaxation with the intention of combating anxiety, optimising focus and supporting deep sleep. Indeed, research has shown that frequent mindfulness and meditation can support positive mental health outcomes and generally improve mental and physical wellbeing, especially during stressful times or through heavy workloads. 

Grounding practices aside, Psychologists at the University of Exeter have found that less than 10 minutes a day of ‘brain training’ utilising an application-based game they have devised can slow impulses to reach for unhealthy snacks, and reduce calorie intake. A study of 83 adults showed that people who played the game online just four times in one week lost weight and ate an average of 220 kcal less per day – roughly equivalent to a chocolate-iced doughnut. Similarly, utilisation of nutrient density calculators such as Cronometer and My Fitness Pal can support students looking to optimise physical health.

"Research has shown that frequent mindfulness and meditation can support positive mental health outcomes and generally improve mental and physical wellbeing."

Organisation within campus life is crucial for success and productivity. Millennials in particular have been dubbed the “the most productive generation” by numerous blogs and news sources. This is partly driven by exposure to sound advice via web 2.0, a growing economy and, perhaps more negatively, an exposure to social media, which evokes inadequacy and fuels validation through high achievement (which is then shared on social media!) – an endless loop. Nonetheless, productivity for students and staff is inherently important and there are digital applications that manage tasks, projects and time management – Todoist, Things 3, Omnifocus and Asana are some cult favourites.

So, whilst there is much more digital application that mental health, physical health and productivity – the above points deliver a starting point from which to build a ‘knowledge base’ of digital applications that can be provided to students with the intention of utilising technology as a positive support system, instead of focusing on social media, gaming and photographs – perhaps we can be encouraging our students and workforce to take full advantage of technological advancements, and increase their overall wellbeing and achievement through digital trends and innovations.

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