Monday, 18 June 2012

How much connection is too much?

I have been struggling with the question of is there a limit to how much technology we should have in our classroom.  Kids and adults alike live connected to the world through computers, mobile devices and gaming consoles.  Most of us rely on the instant connectivity,  except that many elementary students must disconnect when they get to school.  Teenagers and adults often struggle to find a balance between being connected, and being present in the real world.  In a recent discussion, some colleagues shared some funny stories about that need to get bars of connection and participate in the online world.  Even at our Father’s day dinner, all 5 adults, including my Dad who is new to the smartphone addiction, had out phones on the table. It was hard for each of us to forsake all else and devote all our attention to each other, even though there was nothing important enough to actually take me away from a wonderful meal with my family.  
So are we feeding this unfortunate struggle between being connected to the world and connected with those around us in the classroom?  I often hear teachers say that they avoid “screen time” in their teaching and learning practice because kids get so much as it is.  While I understand that, I still feel unsettled by the fact that we take away such a natural tool from our students.  Fifty years ago, the world today would have been impossible to imagine.  I can’t even fathom what the technological realities will be in 20 years.  Who am I to remove such an important aspect of my students’ life, one that I can’t even part with for more than an hour?  Students, even in a very young age, rely on and effectively utilize technology.  Recently, as a teacher working in my second language, with my second language student, were working with the names of less common animals.  I have no shame in admitting that I don’t know the French word for wolverine, and so “we searched it up” online.  What a disadvantage we all would have been at, teacher included, if we couldn’t have associated the word “ un carcajou” with the uncommon image of a wolverine.  Through our connection, we all learned something that day.  
I don’t know how to balance the old world practice of pen and paper tasks with the more technology focused activities in my class.  In my life, and as an individual in my classroom, I model that connection that is an extra appendage through my mobile device.  I hear what some colleagues say about too much screen time, especially for the little guys.  But the idea of removing the students from the context in which they learn everyday makes me too uncomfortable. I can’t in good conscience limit my students’ connectivity and remove those connections that engrain their learning.  As with everything, blocking students from the world teaches them very little.  I think we need to open up the connections, but teach and model the best ways and times to access those connections.  


  1. I think this is a question we're all struggling with, Theresa. When I meet with family and friends in casual settings, and they (or I) are tethered to conversations elsewhere, I feel like I just walked up to some folks for a chat, and they started whispering to each other and turning their backs to me. It just feels rude, even though I don't think that's the intention at all.

    I wonder if we are approaching the time when we need an Emily Post of technology? What are good and bad manners in a technological world.

    Maybe more importantly, it may also be time for us to have deliberate conversations with our students about these things, and particularly how to build a balanced life that includes relationships of all kinds.