Should we just pull the plug already?

SOURCE:GIPHY

Well, here we are, my final EC&I 830 blog post. Our quick semester flew right by us, leaving me a lot more prepared to begin my next school year in September. With the help of the discussions we’ve had throughout the past month and a half, I have developed a few new ideas relating to how I’m going to be integrating technology in my classroom from now on.

Ironically enough however, our debate topic for our last class focused on society’s dependency on technology, and whether or not we should just unplug completely.

Unplugging completely is quite an extreme measure to take at a time where technology has completely grasped every aspect of society. Just yesterday I was talking to my class about how I saw a $300 tooth brush at the store the other day that could hook up to an Iphone app via Bluetooth. I’m sure the device is great, and tracking my brushing time could definitely have some benefits…I guess.

“Brushing our teeth the OLD SCHOOL WAY!”

I guess this is as good of an example as any, but I would definitely agree that we’ve become quite dependent on technology. Of course, this goes beyond the idea of a three-hundred dollar toothbrush. It’s the fact that we need to keep track of every personal stat for every workout; it’s us needing to post a picture of every dinner and lunch that we have; or having to share every single thought that comes to our heads.

In true fashion of all the EC&I 830 debates, I have managed to land in the grey area of this question once again. On one side, technology is taking over our lives, disrupting our real-life interactions and chipping away at our social skills. Just the other day, we were having a discussion in my class about how difficult it is to have conversations with people when they are more pre-occupied with their phones, than they are with your conversation. Then, we’ve got the other side, where technology can simply be viewed as a tool, rather than a necessity, that facilitates daily tasks.

For my final debate reflection, I decided to go to the source. I decided to take this question, and actually ask the very people that we’re so concerned about. Our students.

I’ve spent the past week and a half discussing some of the debate topics we had in our EC&I 830 class, with my grade 5/6 class. May sound a little weird, considering some of the questions brought up some heavy topics, but they were extremely co-operative and more than willing to answer the questions we were exploring.

We started off talking about what technology even is. I wrote a list of different objects, spanning from a stapler, a rake, a spear, a typewriter, paper, pencils, tablets, laptops, virtual reality, space crafts, the Large Hadron Collider, and many others.

I proceeded by asking them “What do all of these things have in common?”

Kids made associations between some objects, saying how pencils and papers had things in common, as well as spears and rakes, and computers and laptops. We spent a great deal of time breaking down the list, but none of the students made the connection that all of these objects are considered technology.

We explored the concept of technology, and how it’s evolved and become bigger and more exciting things. To them, technology obviously refers to electronics, devices, social media; this is what they were brought up with, this is what their definition of technology is to them.

We compared our grandparents’ childhoods, with their childhoods. We talked about what we do differently today. But then I asked them “What is something you wish you could experience that your grandparents or older generations have told you about when they were your age.” The answer were interesting. The most common answer I got back from them was “not having technology” and “being free to do anything you want, and not being connected to everything and everyone all the time”.

I proceeded to ask them why they felt this way, and many of them told me that the reason they wish to leave these things, is because they find that they are spending too much time on their devices. They found that their parents and grandparents had more interesting upbringings than them, and that they wish they could do some of the things their family members did when they were young. One of my students told me that there are too many rules nowadays, and he can’t just “go outside”. He told the class that he wishes phones didn’t keep track of where people are and how you can get a hold of anyone at any time. He identified some of the risks of not being connected, like being kidnapped or getting hurt or lost and not having anyone find him. He also mentioned how people like his grandfather got in all sorts of trouble, but nothing ever really happened to him.

Of course, not all the kids had the same answers, many of them thought the past wasn’t that exciting at all and they didn’t really want to experience a life without the technology we have now.

I then asked the class to do a quick role play. I stood in front of the class and chose a volunteer. I handed my volunteer my IPhone and told them to pretend I was someone from 1916. I told the class that my character I was playing had no knowledge of what a cell phone was. The question leading up to this activity was: “Imagine you could go back to the past, and show someone from 1916 a device from the future. What would you show them?”

So I told my volunteer to pretend that they were showing me, the man from the past, a device from the future. My student showed me the device and told me what it was.

Student: “This is a cell phone”

Me: “What’s a cell phone?”

Student: “It’s a device that you can go on social media and talk to your friends”

Me: “What’s a device? What’s social media? What do you mean I can just talk to them?”

Student: “Well, it’s a phone, so you can talk to anyone?”

Me: “A phone….?”

Student: “Yeah, you know, a telephone!”

Me: “Ohhhh, you mean those things that are attached to the wall that the rich folk have in their homes? But how is this a telephone? Why isn’t it attached to the wall?”

Throughout the role play, the student was getting frustrated, because he wasn’t able to explain all of the cool features this device was capable of doing.

Me: “So what is this social media that you speak of?”

Student: “Well… social media is something where you…. It’s an app.”

Me: “What’s an app?”

Student: “It’s kind of like a program that goes on your phone.”

Me: “A program? Like a schedule for an event?”

Needless to say, this went on for a while and the student (eventually students, because my first volunteer gave up midway) experienced a lot of trouble explaining the features and appeal of this amazing device. The purpose of this experiment was to show my class how different our lives really are compared to older generations(and even people who DON’T have these devices). Putting these things into perspective helped them see how difficult it is for people who aren’t connected to understand the things that we’re so infatuated with.

We ended up making a pros and cons list of technology. The results are surprising:

"Cons"
“Cons”
"Pros"
“Pros”

According to my class, there are far more cons to technology than pros. When I asked them to beef up the pros list, they really couldn’t. They told me that although technology is helpful, they often find it difficult to use it appropriately. They said it’s a distraction, and even if they try not to overuse it, they always end up doing so anyway. So the kids that are growing up with tech are coming up with some of the same conclusions many people are making on topic. It’s always interesting to see what your students really think.

We started talking about being connected, and I asked my class who would be able to fully drop technology. Most of my students said they would never abandon technology altogether. Some of them said they’d be more than willing to get rid of social media, but not other things like video games or their phones.

We proceeded to watch the Paul Miller story, the man who stopped using the Internet for a whole year. For many of the reasons my own students identified, Paul abandoned the internet for many of these same reasons.

When I asked my students again if they could abandon technology and fully disconnect, only two students said they could do it. Most of my class said that they would never unplug because there’s no need to unplug. Watching the video of Paul showed them that although he seemed happier at the end of the experiment, he still didn’t end up doing a lot of the things he had the intentions of doing with an entire year of “FREE TIME”. Some of my students said that the busier they are, the more they get done. Some of my students said that they can take or leave technology, because they still enjoy being outside and playing with their friends. Many of my students made the distinction between digital and real-life interactions, saying how they are both different types of interactions. Although they like socializing online, nothing will compare to real-life interactions.

I could go on forever, but at the end of the day, the message that came out was moderation. Once again, we find ourselves in this gray area of the debate. Technology, although quite harmful in many ways, is still something a lot of us are unwilling to completely abandon. Even me, unless I HAD to, I would never be able to just drop tech. What I learned from my students however, is that they are fully aware of the dangers and the negative aspects of tech, and as far as they see, their solution is moderation and backing off and taking a break from time to time.

I don’t think I answered this question, as much as I just took a better look at it. Unplugging, as I said, is so extreme. Is it possible? Of course it is, but what I find is that at this point in my life (where my job, schooling and social life depend on tech), it would actually make my life a lot harder to manage if I didn’t have these things. I, like my students, also believe in moderation and being able to step back when you have to. I almost feel defeated by technology, but perhaps we shouldn’t look at it this way…

This class was a huge learning experience for me and I’m really happy I got to share a lot of my thoughts with all of you. Thanks for everyone’s input every week, your comments challenged me and gave me the extra push to further explore my thoughts.

Great job everyone! I hope you all have a great summer.

Cheers,

Dre

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16 thoughts on “Should we just pull the plug already?”

  1. Great blog post, Dre! Your students are so fortunate to have you share your learning with them. What a great conversation and reflection for them and all of the people that conversation will ripple out to. I’m with you in the grey area of our debates. Any extreme can become dangerous so moderation is key. I think we strive for moderation. Perhaps it’s even more important for us to take classes like this and have conversations with others that help us reflect… will I really know what moderation is if I never reflect on where I’m at? Just a wonder.

    Always appreciate your perspectives and the artistry that you bring to conversation. Have a great summer!

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    1. The kids really enjoy when I share what I’m doing in school. My first two semesters this school year, I took two anti racist, social justice classes, so you can only imagine what I was doing then! And that’s awesome! The summer institute will definitely be interesting and probably a lot more out of my comfort zone hahaha. Anyway, enjoy the week off and I’ll see ya there!

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  2. Interesting responses from the students. Thanks for sharing as I too am looking at my next year year plan haha and have been integrating the digital teachings into some new essential questions! I also think it is interesting that they think the busier they are the more they get accomplished. I have said this for years! Recently I have noticed that with technology this is not the case. The more social interactions and tasks I have to accomplish the more productive I am, but my phone drags me down in getting my long list done. It distracts me from my never ending to do lists. I need to put it away in order to be productive.

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    1. I agree Heidi! Just over the past few years I have found that my phone significantly increases the time it takes me to get any academic work finished. It definitely allows me to multitask at other times, combining minor details of my days into less time, but I have started to put it away while I’m trying to mark, writing report card comments, or do homework for grad classes. I could never give up tech, nor do I think this would be a valuable decision, but I need to limit the amount of my attention it steals!

      Great post Dre! I would love to be a fly on the wall of your classroom for one day. It sounds like you are having really interesting, thought provoking conversations with your kids. Enjoy your summer!

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      1. Great points Erin. It’s true, social media (and phones to a larger extent) are making focused based tasks significantly easier. I’m getting a lot better at not looking at my phone or social media when I’m doing homework, but it’s still a distraction I wish to push even further away from me during those times. Thanks for the great reply Erin!

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    2. Yeah I’m slowly learning how to balance social media and homework time. Since starting my masters, I’ve made some big strides as far as getting off task and resort in yo mindless face booking. Since I’m so busy nowadays, I feel like I HAVE to get things done, as opposed to letting it sit until the day before it’s due. See, I’m seeing that by telling my class how I’m in school, it’s sort of rubbing off on them. Lots of kids are managing their time a little better this year and I think it helps to tell them that I’m actually in the same boat as them. Thanks for the insightful comment, I always appreciate it

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  3. Sounds like a great discussion to have with your kids, and I am certain the role play was much more meaningful and memorable than simply telling them how things were different “back in the day”. I believe your comments on moderation are right on the mark. If used in moderate amounts, in responsible ways, at appropriate times, our plugged in life can have many benefits.

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    1. The role play was a great activity. The best thing was that I was talking to another group (doing a similar lesson) and the role play thing sort of just emerged from one of my infamous tangents. Ended up working really well so I retried it with my two other groups. It’s really important to put a lot of these things into perspective for kids, as a lot of knowledge about life before technology is rather cloudy to them. You’re absolutely right about moderating and limiting our time with tech to appropriate times, I truly believe it can be used for positive purposes that can greatly improve and transform learning in a classroom

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