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Mapping the field of digital wellbeing education: A compendium of innovative practices and open educational resources

Research output: Other contribution

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Abstract

This report maps the field of digital wellbeing education practice in Higher Education settings. It is intended for educators (e.g. teachers, lecturers, trainers and professional developers) and researchers interested in advancing their understanding of digital wellbeing education and exploring new ways to improve the digital wellbeing of their students. It showcases innovative, creative and participative approaches to digital wellbeing education, including media literacy, digital citizenship and critical thinking, and sets out the challenges, risks, opportunities and future directions for digital wellbeing education.

The survey of practice highlights 14 examples of digital wellbeing practice, from UK, Ireland, Spain and Denmark (countries of the project partners) and beyond, as well as a range of open educational resources that can be reused by educators. Most research and practice in digital wellbeing has been carried out in schools and youth work not within Higher Education. As a result, we have included some examples and resources that may be inspirational or have potential for transfer to the Higher Education context.

The study of the perceptions of practitioners (educators and professional developers) revealed the challenges, risks, opportunities and future directions of the field from the perspective of experienced educators. The ten experienced educators who were interviewed had experience of creating digital wellbeing resources or delivering teaching on digital wellbeing.

Participants see two main challenges: that there is not a uniform definition of digital wellbeing; and that only a few studies report on the impact of an intervention, so, it is difficult to critically evaluate the success of initiatives.
The risks are reported as distraction (however there is no evidence to suggest that screen time affects the wellbeing of young people), and the attention-economy whereby companies compete for our attention which may lead to unintended effects on wellbeing.

The opportunities are seen as the development of ethical frameworks for a digital society. As a digital citizen in a digital society, there is a need to be aware of laws, threats to personal data, manipulation tactics, and how the digital experience affects you and others around you. We all need to be aware of how to behave ethically in a digital society. This is not just a personal need but a social responsibility. Companies need to be aware of how the design of their products affects us individually and collectively, e.g. Peters (2019) calls for the responsible design of technology using a process that includes a wellbeing assessment and ethical analysis. As educators we need to be aware of the effects of our own decisions on students and teach ethics and online netiquette.
The future directions that researchers should explore include: the use of games for digital wellbeing and students’ preferred media for communications; the development of guidelines and evaluation criteria to improve the quality of courses and trustworthiness of digital tools. Finally, the participants called for Higher Education institutions to embrace digital wellbeing, integrate it into their strategic plans and create better environments for students and staff.

Our theory of change is that if we can develop the capability of educators in digital wellbeing and digital literacy then we can promote the digital wellbeing of students. This report is a first step towards achieving this objective as we share examples of innovative practices and open educational resources. For more information on the project and other outputs (two mobile applications), see the Digital Wellbeing Educators project website.