I have been thinking about this blog post shared by George Couros and the subsequent conversation with Jason Wigmore.
In her post, Jessi Hempel talks about the many factors that have influenced her decision to take a sabbatical from social media for the month of August. It’s a humorous and thoughtful take on how to balance social media in your life. I think that what’s niggling at me most is the idea of going cold-turkey for a month and whether or not that is the best approach; at least I don’t think it is for me as an educator.
You can’t argue with the fact that technology is so ubiquitous that it can literally take over every minute if you allow it to. And that the need for balance is more necessary today than it ever has been as a result.
But, like Jason, I enjoy having the luxury of time in the summer to read more blog-posts and connect with like-minded educators on Twitter which I don’t necessarily have the time to do when the school year is in full swing. I really love reading someone’s post, the comments, and then adding to the conversation with my own comment. I think I learn more from that process than I might attending a conference. I simply don’t have as much time for reflection during the school year when I know I skim and scan some of the items shared with me on Twitter and put them aside to get back to. In the summer, I can actually read a post twice if I need to, I can think about where I could use the ideas and plan to make it happen or I can thoughtfully share the information with people who might find it useful. I truly believe that being a connected educator is valuable every day of the year.
If I believe that to be a teacher is to be a learner,
then does it make sense to stop learning in the summer?
Socially, I am notorious for missing birthdays and milestone events in the lives of my friends and family because I rarely get on Facebook or Instagram (which I use for personal rather than professional connections) unless it’s summer time. I love to re-connect with everyone on those platforms in July and August.
I think of my kids, who have spent every daytime moment with their friends at school who because of varying schedules have not been able to physically connect with their friends over the summer. They use Snapchat and Instagram to keep in touch. I remember how connected to my friends I was at that age and how often my parents yelled at me for being on the phone!
Admittedly, I have to try really hard to strike a balance with technology and social media and to model that balance for my kids, but the lazy hazy days of summer seem like the ideal opportunity to do that.
Every summer, we go on a family road trip. Typically, we turn off our cellular data and only used our phones to take pictures. We listen to music and trivia in the car. On our Washington DC visit this summer, we toured tons of museums and monuments, and had lots of great conversations. I’m not going to lie. When we hit a McDonalds or coffee shop with wifi, everyone took out their phones to get updates. It was like we had been trekking through a desert and didn’t realize how thirsty we were until we arrived at an Oasis. But we had a good conversation about that at our next non-wifi stop and for almost the entire trip we were connecting with one another.
Summer for us is about going for walks, or long bike-rides, swimming in the pool, visiting cottages, and hosting friends. At camp, there are no devices allowed. And so with all of these opportunities for outdoor activities, it’s actually easier to model an appropriate balance. Isn’t it?
As a parent and teacher, the need for modelling and seeking balance is particularly important. But sometimes, it’s tough-going!
I would say that both myself and my husband are just as addicted to social media as my kids. I am definitely a Twitter addict! One of the things I had to do while I’ve been busy working on a course is turn off my notifications, so I could keep from being distracted. I openly shared my struggle and why I was doing that with my teens so that when they have an important assignment, they might use the same strategy. And I love Hempel’s idea of creating a Folder on my phone called, “Don’t Touch” which might work for these instances.
There are a couple of year-long absolutes in our family:
1. no devices at the table (at home or a restaurant) and when guests are over
2. devices stay downstairs at bedtime
The rest is a bit of a work in progress.
Obviously, we are a middle class family with summers off. The issue of balance becomes even more complicated if kids are left to their own devices (pardon the pun) and don’t have the opportunities and the modelling that our family situation can provide.
But technology isn’t going away any time soon, so we really need to keep working at finding a solution that is going to work for us. Giving up technology for a week, a month, or for Lent isn’t going to solve the problem.
And I think we need to take it easy on kids if as adults we’re struggling too. It can’t be one of those, “Do as I say!” things because I know how much I hated that!!
Knowing when it is appropriate to have a device out of sight and when/how to connect with experiences and people in real life are increasingly important lessons for any age group every day of the year.
Being fluid and mindful and having ongoing conversations about it might be the best approach.