No Career Break? Try a Tech Break!

Posted on: Thursday, November 4th, 2010
Posted in: Unplugging, Blog | Leave a comment

DSC_0634While this site (and now many others) promote career breaks for personal sanity and growth, the resounding mass response remains, “Sounds great, but I can’t do that.”  

So here’s s tinier idea. Try a tech break: Take one day (24 hours) a week and turn off ALL your digitalia.  A high school in Woodstock NY did, and learned plenty. 

The experiment, chronicled here, lasted a month.  A survey at the end found that two out of 3 (65%) had stuck with the program.  

Not bad—considering that even academia has become addicted to screens and tech tools.  But of course, the social and habitual usage proved to be the most missed.  As one teacher admits:

“What’s astonishing to me is that my BlackBerry is not just a technological device, but also something I fidget with often…just to pass the time.” 

That’s a big confession for a teacher.  As a fellow educator, I often look out at my students—who are always wired about nine ways—and wonder what are they focused on right now?  Anything? 

Perhaps that’s the big brainpower question:

  • Does all this data at our fingertips harm relationships and real learning—or indeed make us more productive as teachers and students? 

After the experiment ended, 75% of participants stated that being tech-untethered slowed down their production.  Yet one administrator wisely observed:

It forced us all to be creative in how to deliver our lessons, express curiosity, and learn from one another in a much more personal way.”  

Gosh, that sounds brilliant to me! 

To be continued?

No.  When the month was over, the students had had enough.  They wanted their MTV, err, tech tools (and toys) back.  Even one day a week was hard to endure. 

When teaching my classes, I do—now and then—ask them to close their laptops, put away their cell phones, get out a pen and paper, and just listen and take notes.  Or WRITE something.  For, say, 15 minutes or less.  That’s called journaling and note-taking–an admittedly radical experiment in contemporary education.

Recently, I collected their journals—to assess their ability to capture pertinent info and just jot their thoughts.  A few were marvelous, of course.  But beyond that, let’s just say I decided not to fight tech fate—but instead to be sympathetic grader.

What would you have done?

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