The Red Badge of Doom

I am starting a new tradition. As a part of my new-formed anti-stress campaign, I’m doing something that might seem totally uncharacteristic of someone who is so tech-minded.

I’M DISCONNECTING ALL WEEKEND.

Well, sort of.

After reading one-too-many articles on how blue light affects sleep, how lack of sleep affects everything, and how the constant beep of updates from my Family group text affects my sanity (wait–I didn’t read that; I just know it), I’ve decided–for the second weekend in a row–to shut it all off.

Last Friday, I uninstalled Facebook from my phone. (Admittedly, I kept Messenger.) I took off Instagram. Deleted the Twitter. I turned off any and all notifications, badges, and sounds from everything that was left. Gone. It was all gone.

Granted, it’s easy to do things like this, because–really–it’s not all gone. It takes a whole 5 seconds to re-install the apps and everything is there, just like you left it. I can’t imagine deleting ACCOUNTS. So the step I’ll take is to delete the app. Let’s not get crazy here.

At first, I was very confused. Actually confused. I kept reaching for my phone and lighting it up and staring at it, but no red bubbles of happiness (or doom, depending on the app) were staring back at me. I realized very quickly that I pick up my phone at pretty much every possible interval–at stoplights, in line for checkout, when I pass the phone walking from room to room, during commercials, during boring parts of TV shows, on the toilet (yeah, I said it). A few hours into no-notification life, I stopped the knee-jerk phone checking.

BUT THEN WHAT DO YOU DO? You’re telling me I have to stand in line at Walgreens and–what–read the bad headlines of the Star? I’m supposed to look at the traffic lights when I’m stopped at them? I’m not supposed to Instagram my salad? How am I supposed to eat this PERFECT salad without sharing how beautiful it is?!

Granted, I’m exaggerating, but not that much. My constant connectedness was ridiculous, and was actually starting to mess with my ability to function. I didn’t feel comfortable being in just one conversation at a time; I had to have three other digital conversations going on simultaneously. I couldn’t just watch TV; I had to watch TV and text and Google “can you propagate ivy” and be alerted that my sister was picking up the comforter my mother had washed that afternoon. One can imagine how that might wear a soul thin.

When Monday rolled around, I couldn’t help but re-install Instagram. I convinced myself that seeing pretty pictures was less harmful than most of my smartphone activities. I also follow a tiny and select group of people on Instagram who can be counted on to only post photos of their dogs, babies, and flowers, so there I’m guaranteed to not have a stream full of depressing news or overshares.

Wish me luck on weekend #2 of disconnectedness (lite). Just don’t do it on Twitter or Facebook, because I won’t get the notification.

Keep your money. I want good learning.

If I had a dollar for every time a teacher asked me what app they should use or what website they should send their kids to, I’d be richer than Richy Rich.

SPOILER ALERT: I’m not.

But I AM frustrated with this kind of thinking. I guess, several years ago, this WAS how technology was integrated into learning–you had some great sites that you could plop kids on and they’d be able to explore some corner of the internet they didn’t know about. Or (in my day) you got to play Number Munchers or Oregon Trail when you were done with your assignment.

Nowadays, we care more about what we want the kids to learn, and THEN what or if technology should be involved. This makes it harder on teachers in some ways, because we have to run through the list of resources and devices available (if we even KNOW of what’s available) and choose the right one. The hardest thing–maybe–is realizing when no technology is the right one.

And then, even more difficult, is the option of providing students with choice as to what device or tool they use–or if they use one at all. They’re no longer all doing a prescribed PowerPoint with set information on each slide; they’re:

  • creating a lesson to teach the class a concept or skill
  • demonstrating a scientific principle using video or animation
  • publishing a collaborative blog about a lit circle book
  • etc.

They’re creating something with an objective in mind, and–if a teacher has the guts–deciding how they want to do that.

This–I believe–is the most powerful shift in instruction with technology in our district: student choice. It requires a teacher who is willing to introduce different platforms or devices, allow (possibly) unknown programs or devices to be used, allow students to teach themselves and each other, and embrace the chaos of non-uniformity.

So, even if I COULD have a dollar for every question about the “magic app,” I DON’T WANT IT.

Keep your money. I want good learning.