Friday, November 7, 2014

EdTech: The Balance

The other day, a friend and I got into a discussion about young children using technology. As a dad of a little one he was genuinely interested in my research on tech use and was asking tons of questions. I've come to realize that my blog has turned introspective of the entire edtech movement, trying to divine how we can navigate the murky waters we find ourselves in.

And that led to this three-part blog series: The Good, the Bad, and the Balance.

November 5: The Good
November 6: The Bad
November 7: The Balance

Having looked at the benefits and the dangers of technology in society and education, today I want to look out how teachers and parents can balance technology use so we can help produce healthy members of society.  Here are my top five balancing acts.

  1. Limit screentime. I do a great job of applying this to my daughter’s life. She is only allowed to be in front of a screen (TV, iPad, LeapPad, laptop) at specified times of the day.  I’m not so good at doing this myself. You may be interested in this article about tech execs who have very low-tech homes.
  2. Get outside. Breathe fresh air. Do something adventurous. I am amazed at how many kids complain about being bored during outdoor recess. Apparently, there’s nothing fun to do. Lately one of my most cherished times is walking my dog at 5:30 AM. I find myself free of distraction (unless she sees a bunny) and have the ability to think, pray, and process. You gotta try it!
  3. Digital Sabbath. There are all sorts of examples on the Web of people who are breaking free from their devices. One day a year, one day a week, one week a year? Whatever your choice, break free and enjoy yourself. Get your hands dirty.  Paint something. Build something. Play with dirt. It’s OK. We can always wash them. (And Mom can save the moment on Instagram.)
  4. Be very aware. I’m not interesting in telling you how to be a parent. I have a hard enough time with my parenting skills. However, I’m very aware of what my daughter is doing digitally. I no longer hover over her, but I do know the apps and software she is allowed to mess around with.  Parents, regardless of children’s ages, should have an idea of what is going on with their kids.
  5. Teach students and parents about digital citizenship, including The Good, The Bad, and The Balance.  We will only sound like fools to the ears of the students if we aren't saying the same thing the parents are saying.  Educating both groups will go a long way.

Honorable Mentions: Get standing desks at school, so students and teachers do not sit all day. Focus on creativity not consumption when it comes to tech use.

My father will not be on this earth much longer. As I look back on a lifetime of memories, the ones that rise to the top have nothing to do with digital media.  (OK, there is the funny time he mistook the credit card reader for the U-scan machine.)  What I will remember of Dad is how he coached me in basketball and took up distance running to support my brother and me when we were cross country runners. I will remember hiking in the mountains and swimming in the ocean.  His love for Angry Birds probably won’t make it to the hit list.

While I want my daughter to be tech savvy and have all the benefits of growing up in this tech world, I also don’t want her to remember me by how much my face was pointed at a glowing screen instead of at something beautiful - like a mountain, my wife, or her.

How do you balance technology in your class and in your family?

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