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?
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!