Teaching Balance with Technology

I’m walking down the hallway.  Students line the path, sitting on the floor, faces fixated at their computers positioned carefully on their laps.  Not one of them notices the passing people.  They are focused on fb, instant messaging, or games.  They do not look up.

After school and I’m walking through the cafeteria.  MS boys sit at the tables smiling at their computer screens.  They are talking amongst each other, however, their eyes never leave the screen.  They are engaged in an interactive game: Minecraft or Roblox, or something similar.

I’m circulating through my classroom as students work individually on projects.  I look at the screens and can see IM conversations discretely positioned in a corner of their screen.  Signs of fb, Skype or other social media are scattered across the screens.  Some students attempt to “multi-task” gaming with researching.  It’s never successful.  I’m always amazed that they’re surprised that I can spot a difference between typing for a research project and playing a game.  I wonder if they really think I’m that stupid.

High School students often place their phone on top of their desk “just in case”, despite knowing they aren’t supposed to answer it or message during class.  However, I often spot students viewing messages or even trying to sneak a message in during class.

It’s common for MS and HS students to get together in a social setting and bring their computers with them.

Ongoing discussions in schools revolve around computers.  How much computer use?  What type of computer use?  Are games appropriate in school?  How much screen time?  How to increase technology in classrooms?  What about digital portfolios?  How do we educate on Digital Responsibility?

A few weeks ago I viewed this spoken word film titled “Look Up” by Gary Turk who portrays, through poetry, the potential pitfalls of being overly engrossed with technology.  It’s powerful and worth listening to.

I would like all of my students to be more reflective on their personal computer usage.  It would be nice to see young people choose to set aside the technology and have a discussion or at least face-to-face interaction.  What do you think about teaching balance with regards technology usage?  How can it be done?