Monday, August 31, 2015

Are You Up For The Tech Out Challenge?

Finish this sentence with the first thought that pops into your mind:  "You know you're living in a digital world when...."   Easy right?  It is not hard to come up with examples of how a digital world has changed life for the better or worse.  What is difficult is trying to come up with examples of if going back to the old ways would be better?   That is if the "old" ways can be remembered.  Let's be honest when social media posts up meme of old telephones, washboards or card catalogs and asks the question, "how many remember what this is?" ,  the first impulse is to blurt out what it is.  The second impulse is to remember how far back that object dates.  Ten, twenty or fifty years?  It doesn't seem that long ago dail-up modems were the only way to travel on the information highway.  Yet,  in 2015 the thought of having to wait a minute for a page to upload seems like FOREVER.   Is this an exaggeration?  Perhaps but there is truth in the statement.   There is also truth in that libraries, for better or for worse, have fallen in the trap of keeping up with technology.  What is being lost is the art of communication.  That's where the digital world has created the most havoc.

Due to the increase usage of the Internet,  social groups that once would meet face to face, now just "meet" and "converse" online.  What is even more irritating are the responses in happy faces or cartoons that express the emotions of the moment or reaction to what has been said.  Is this the slippery slope of trending away from reading, writing or speaking?  This may sound like someone ranting over something trivial but it has been the experience that these small changes in culture tend to have an impact on what technology will come  up with tomorrow.  Ah, the simpler days are gone, or are they?  Perhaps there is a way to recapture the experience of unplugging and recapturing the simple art of communication.   For a back-to-school/get-to -know-your-peers activities here are some ideas that can be effective in opening the door to communicating the old fashioned way.   It might just make the entire school year better as well.  Most importantly it will get students and parents to understand the huge role that technology plays in daily routines.

Some may call this idea similar to going cold turkey.  Others may call it going off the grid.   The best title to give this exercise is Tech Out Challenge.  In other words, how long can students do without their social media gadgets?  Give each student a manila envelope. Have them write on the outside of the envelope the date and time that they have last used the device.    Instruct them to place their phone in the envelope and seal it.  Once they do this, they are to place the device in a safe place and not retrieve it for three days.  In the event that the student "feels" the need to use their phone, they may retrieve the manilla envelope and rip it open.  At that time they will record the date and time they opened the envelope and the reason for retrieving the device.   Regardless of when a student opens his/her envelope,  all students will participate in a group discussion where the topic will be how well or badly the students did during Tech Out.  Some of the questions to consider asking:

How did you feel about not having your phone with you 24/7?

What did you enjoy the most during  this time?

What did you miss the most during this time?

Would you ever participate in a Tech Out Challenge again?

How has this changed your view about technology?

Remind the students that there are no right or wrong answers to these questions.  The best part of this program is to see how surprised students are out their findings.    It is amazing to see the reactions of teens when they find they can live without technology and still be connected with their social and family groups.

As for the adults who choose to participate alongside their younger counterpart, they too may find something interesting about themselves and technology.  One of the major drawbacks to technology is that it brings with it more distractions.   Has someone called?  Who's online ?  Was there an email missed?  Now bring all these distractions into a learning environment like a school or library.  Is it any wonder that students haven't become stark mad raving lunatics.    This type of constant fight for the students' attention can only lead to more stress and distraction  Not to mention, a loss of social skills.

Consider this an invitation to try this challenge at home, work, library teen programs  or church group.  As life gets more hectic, it is better to take a step back and unplug.  It may be the only way to connect with the real world again.  Or in the case of students,  the opportunity to connect in the "real" world.  

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