I appreciate the irony of this post right out of the gate; a blog post about no technology by an educator whose biography states that she is passionate about the use of educational technology! Just follow along with me here.
In my Grade 11 University English class, we study George Orwell's classic 1984. Obviously, we go very in depth as a result, about the meaning and implications, both from a literature perspective but also in a more modern context and what implications his novel has for current society. I have them explore the principles of 'doublethink' and censorship, government surveillance and whether, despite the fact we live in a democratic society, we can see elements of Orwell's prophesy in our world.
So how does it lead to a day without technology?
In order to have them really critically about both the positive and negative effects of technology, we also study the work of Neil Postman and his contemporaries who explore whether we are actually living in a "Huxleyan" (read: Brave New World) reality, rather than an Orwellian one.
For a quick synopsis of the two visions, check out this amazing graphic by Stuart McMillen: biblioklept.org/2013/06/08/huxley-vs-orwell-the-webcomic-2/.
Essentially, Postman (in 1985) argues that Huxley’s prophecy of a world that adores their technologies that upon their capacity to think has come true, in large part due to the advent of the television. (And thus, in 2017, one can infer that he would also group technology such as mobile devices in this same category).
Armed with our knowledge of Huxley and Orwell, I offered my students the opportunity to surrender their devices to me for an entire school day to see how they fared without access to technology. I wanted them to think about both the advantages and disadvantages of being 'disconnected'.
Less than half of the class chose to surrender their phones to me for the experiment but of those who did, all of them made it the entire school day without their phones.
In order to assess their experience, I asked them to fill out a Google form and share with me some of their perspectives about this experiment. Namely, I wanted to know what was the most valuable part of this experience and what was the most difficult.
Here's a snapshot of the answers from a variety of different students who participated.
"From doing this social experiment I learned more about my peers than I did about myself. The constant need to have a device in ones hand, and the immense reliance on technology these days is astounding to me. I often saw that conversations between some people had to involve a phone. The story of people texting each other, while sitting right beside each other is true."
"By doing this experiment, I realize that it is more fun to get in touch with other people personally than just talking to them online. Another valuable part of this experiment is that I can do more things without my phone. During lunch time at school, I am always with my phone; chatting my friends and checking my online accounts. But since I am performing this 'No Tech Day', I just did my homework and study for my other courses."
"Having my phone taken away completely eliminated that whole habit of constantly checking my phone because I didn't have it, and to be quite honest, I enjoyed that feeling. Not having the feeling of wanting to check my phone was liberating."
"Some of the biggest challenges of this experiment was not so much the feeling of needing my phone, but more so that I had that constant anxiety feeling when I would feel my empty pocket and have that terrified feeling that I lost my phone."
"Being so used to having access to anything you can gain information about in my back pocket and suddenly being deprived from it was pretty difficult and lead to feeling a bit anxious."
"The biggest challenge of this experiment for me is the fact that I do not have a device that will keep myself busy. I would say that the hardest part is when you have that awkward silence within your friends because they are all looking at their devices, and that I have nothing to look at."
From a teaching perspective, I think this was a worthwhile and interesting exercise! It would have been even more interesting if all students had been obliged to participate (but I don't think I would do that) because I suspect it is the kids who are most dependent on their phones and would have been most challenged by this who were also the ones who chose not to participate; I think this would have been most valuable for the ones who chose not to partake.
Have any of you done "no tech" challenges with your students? How did it go? What did they have to say about it?
In light of the fact that this week is Spring Break in Ontario (my Canadian friends like to hassle for me for this one, since in Canada, we typically call it "March Break"), I thought it would be as good of time as any to tackle my thoughts surrounding work-life balance and taking time for yourself.
It seems in our current world, there is a lot of mixed messaging about these topics. On one hand, you have people talking about the importance of self care, mental health and balance, and on the other, you have people advocating the importance of always giving your best, "rise and grind", "sleep when you're dead", "if you love your job, it's not work" and so on, so forth.
Sometimes, it feels like a tug of war, being pulled in both directions.
We live in a society that is more connected than ever. And with that, comes so many advantages. But it is also makes it a lot more difficult to take a step back, unplug, detach, and relax. There's an expectation that because we can be connected, that we are always connected. This puts a lot of pressure on people to be always "on" and always available, which can be emotionally and physically draining.
Being "busy" is worn like a badge of honour; if you have no time for yourself, it's because you're such an all-star at whatever it is you are doing. Only got 4 hours of sleep? Awesome! You're pursuing your passion and hard work works. Burning the candle at both ends is a new status symbol in some circles. The more you do, with the less time off, and the more you show for it, the more respected you are.
Furthermore, the idea that if you need a break from work, you're clearly doing something wrong because "do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life". I disagree completely. I AM doing what I LOVE. Teaching is my second greatest passion (after being a Mom). I live and breathe it. I think about it almost constantly. I sometimes even dream about it. I go out for dinner with friends who are teachers and we talk about it - new books, new lessons, great ideas, bad days, fun activities, PD opportunities. There's no time off from it. I love my kids and I worry about them. I do work during my evenings and days off, including weekends, holidays and summer. And that can be exhausting. It can be draining to have something consume you so entirely. If I was describing a relationship, instead of a job, it would be called "unhealthy", for sure. So, why then, do we view jobs/careers differently?
"Good people are like candles; they burn themselves up to give light to others".
I struggle with work-life balance because I know how important my job is. I know that every single school day, the lives of other people's children are entrusted to me; to teach them, to care about them, to look out for them, to support them. That is a lot of responsibility. And because of that, I often find myself spending every spare second of the day trying to do things for them. It is important to be the best we can be. But it is also important to take care of ourselves.
If we push ourselves to the point of burnout, we will have nothing left to give and at that point, doesn't everyone suffer?
It is important to take a step back every once and a while... to take some time for ourselves to be refreshed and recharged. That is when we do our best work. When we are at our best.
"You can be a good person, a giving person, with a kind heart and still say no".
So this break, I will take some time for both my family and for me. I am even contemplating a FULL day tech free!!! (GASP!) Will I still be thinking about my kids (students) constantly? Of course. I always do. Will I still be doing prep and marking? Obviously. But I won't let myself get stressed out and feel guilty when I take some down for me also.
You can't do a good job, if your job is all you do.
Who am I?
Hi! I'm Megan. 21st century learner and teacher. I am passionate about DI, assessment, student success and #edtech. My blog is where I share what is happening in my classes, my professional learning and sometimes things that are on the outer circle of education. Comments always welcome!