Are You Ready for The Circle, Player One?

A lesson plan that introduces the ideas of "brain hacking," digital addiction, and digital distraction, which kids can apply to their lives.

Photo of Nissa Hales
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Using the lesson plans created by Common Sense Education as a model, students are introduced to the idea of "brain hacking" and how software engineers are employing what they know about psychology and sociology to create addictive products. Students are then asked to apply what they have learned to their own experience using their smartphone or preferred social media application.

The inaugural lesson was taught Feb. 2, 2018, to 11th graders in Advisory period (See attached).

Share research or student experiences that informed your idea!

CBS 60 Minutes: What is “Brain Hacking”? Tech Insiders on Why you Should Care - Anderson Cooper (2017) Nir Eyal: Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products - Official Workbook (2014) PBS News Hour Extra: Are Teens Addicted to Technology (2016) The Sneaky Science Behind Your Kid’s Tech Obsessions - Caroline Knorr - Common Sense Media (2018) This lesson was requested and inspired by the Dean of Students at my school, who is concerned about our students' distracted driving habits.

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Photo of Nissa Hales
Team

Jason,
Thank you for sharing! You guessed correctly: The teachers who taught the lesson reported that they spent 5-10 minutes on distracted as a wrap-up driving during the lesson. Because I was inundated with mediocre resources on distracted driving during my initial search when completing this lesson, I opted for beginning the conversation with the root of the problem: the pull of notifications from PED's while driving, and why they are hard to ignore. I very much look forward to exploring the DFi site.
Thanks again!

Photo of Jason Breed
Team

Nissa Hales I like how you start to introduce this. Question: How far did you get on your distracted driving lesson? We put one together for the 2017-18 school year and so far it's been taught in some 33 states. Happy to share if interested. here is an intro of the types of distracted driving discussed:
Mobile Devices: Social Media updates, Texting, Bluetooth, Changing Tunes, Navigation, Reading
Grooming: Make-up, combing hair or other Hygiene
Eating or Drinking
Using legal or illegal substances while driving
Another occupant(s) - (this is actually the most dangerous form of distracted driving)

There are a number of videos and images packaged up along with instructor notes, class activities, etc so it is hard to create one link. It is available as a zip file download though...and all free! certify.dfinow.org and sign up. You can then choose the Distracted Driving lesson from there. Hope this helps.

Photo of Greg Lau
Team

Oh what a topic! I see this as a hack of the hacks. Expose the gimmicks and tricks of the "magician." It's hard to quit an addiction or habit after you've been prey to it. It's easier to prevent trickery when you know the trick. At least, that's what I'm getting from this, if so, then yay!

will the students be able to "hack" as well to see if they can identify the gimmicks and tricks in addictive apps?

Photo of Nissa Hales
Team

Hi, Greg. That is my hope. The activity in the lesson was designed with that very thing in mind. No one likes to be manipulated, and teenagers least of all. What I can say with certainty is that I have significantly changed my own cell phone habits after researching the topic and creating this lesson and I am already better for it!

Photo of Greg Lau
Team

There's so much psychological manipulation that goes on with addictive mobile apps. I've been prey to several and I've noticed that they all seem to involve casino-style mechanics. I think what might help us hone in on effective counter-intel and methodology/approach is to also gather knowledge and data on the end-user's perspective of the addiction: For example, leveling-up to high power, in-game achievement satisfaction, satisfaction of virtual monetary gains, etc. I think a lot of this intel can help teachers better target certain critical points in addiction.

Looking forward to see how this idea develops!

Photo of Alysha English
Team

Nissa, this is such a great resource! Love Common Sense; thank you so much for sharing with the community. When you did this with your students, curious to hear if you made any iterations or changes to the lesson that you found to be useful? How did the lesson land with students? Thanks again so much for your contribution! -Alysha

Photo of Nissa Hales
Team

Hi, Alysha.
Thanks for your kind words. I actually did not teach this lesson; four of my colleagues did. From what I heard, the lesson was taught as written and the students were engaged in the discussion and activities the entire period. I wish I had more information, not only to share with you but also for personal reflection.
Cheers,
Nissa

Photo of Paul Kim
Team

Nissa. Thanks for sharing your lesson -- I look forward to digging into it. Thanks also for sharing the research. I noticed that your submission didn't include a picture -- please feel free to add one when you have a moment. Also, in your description, you might add a note that your lesson is available as an attachment. It will be a good resource for others.

Photo of Nissa Hales
Team

Thanks for the suggestions, Paul.

Photo of Jennifer Gaspar- Santos
Team

Hi Nissa! This reminds me of Alex Soojung-Kim Pang's website: https://www.distractionaddiction.com. I love his ideas on how to challenge the addictive characteristics of those social media tools and devices you talked about. There is a light at the end of the tunnel! He shares a hopeful message that control can be learned and practiced. Have you all explored the Media Diet at your school? https://www.nationaldayofunplugging.com

Photo of Nissa Hales
Team

Hi, Jennifer.
Thanks for sharing these resources. I have heard of the Digital Diet but hadn't checked into it...until now. I will definitely be sharing this with our Dean of Students.
Cheers,
Nissa