1. Teacher Life

The Continued Struggle Between “Balance” and Technology Usage

One of the things that I love having about a blog is not only the ability to share my thoughts at the moment but to go back and look at what I have shared in the past and how my thinking has changed or stayed the same. 

I was recently asked about my thoughts on using technology use in the classroom and the connection to the word “balance.”  I did a Google search for something I wrote in the past, and I found this post I wrote titled, “…they were born in another time.” 

In it, I wrote the following:

Balance is critical in this debate about what our kids are doing now. Ironically, I am writing this while watching the Olympics (2012), which is a celebration of children that probably grew up with a gigantic lack of balance in their lives to be what many would consider being successful. Is balance what we are aiming for, or is it happiness, or is it both? Will Richardson shared his thoughts on the balance debate:

“…the reality is that most of those folks who are concerned about kids needing balance are out of balance themselves, just in the opposite way. They’re not online enough, not reading, writing, participating, connecting, and creating in these spaces as much as they need to be to fully understand the implications of these technologies for their own learning and for the kids in their classrooms. Lately, when I’ve been responding to people about the “balance” question, I go with “well, actually, you’re out of balance too, you know.”

Will Richardson

If we are really looking out for our kids, what experiences have we learned from using technology ourselves to help guide them through this uncharted territory? As an advocate for the use of technology in schools, I am also an advocate for exercise, connecting face-to-face, and trying different things. It is not that I am against the use of a pencil, but I am against the lack of opportunity to have some meaningful opportunities to use technology in the classroom. We need to give kids Option A and B, not just provide one or the other.

The idea of “balance” is important, so let’s figure out how we can model this balance by embedding the effective use of technology in our lives while also learning to put it away when we should. By being able to model and understand both, we are more likely to seem credible in the discussions with our children.

With all of this being said, I believe that parents are doing their best to provide a better life for their children that was better than their own. I commend parents asking these types of questions as these conversations are so important to improve our students’ opportunities safely. In this whole discussion, this quote always sticks out to me:

“Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.”

Even though I can’t entirely agree with some of the wording above, I am considering the big message I was trying to convey.

First of all, I struggle with the word “balance” and what it means. I always have. 

I feel it is a really personal concept and that we do what we need at different times to maybe help us in a way that might not work for others.  I have taken a step back from work the last several years to be more present with my kids.  At a time in my life, though, I worked all of the time and felt a purpose in that.  A lot of my time was in front of a computer screen writing, creating, and I am proud of what I have accomplished.  I feel like I needed to be “out of balance” to achieve things that were important to me then that are less of a focus today.  It is personal, and I think it is everyone’s own journey to discover.

Secondly, when I wrote that post, I did not have kids. I do now. I am very thoughtful of how much screen time they have, but I also take time to do things with them in front of a screen.  For example, Kallea and I made this “unboxing video” partly because it is something we like doing together and partly because I want to be in on the conversation with how she connects and creates online.  I am not saying my process is right or wrong, but I am trying to find what is best to help guide her in responsible technology usage. For me, we are often looking for the answers that are clearly right or wrong when what is needed is the understanding that not one answer is right for every person or every situation.

Finally, my thoughts are pretty similar today to what they were in the original post from 2012, but my actions are different. For example, see this statement below:

“…what experiences have we learned from using technology ourselves to help guide them through this uncharted territory?”

When I wrote that post, I was at a much lower weight than I am today.  In the past six months, I have started to get my health back on track and have currently lost 65 pounds since August of 2020.  One of the strategies I have used is not paying attention to my phone in the morning until after my workout.  I feel better prepared for the day after getting some physical exercise, and in the past, I knew that checking email/social media for “just five minutes” in the morning could lead to two hours and a missed workout. 

I was also struck by the term “the attention economy” in the documentary “The Social Dilemma.” I use technology on my computer and phone, but I turn all notifications off 24/7.  When it makes sense for me, I go to my phone, but I never let my phone dictate through a notification when it should get my attention.  That is one of the best things I have done for the past few years.

So when I discuss “what I have learned” from technology use, I can talk to some of the ups and some of the downs.  My experience, thoughts, and actions have changed since 2012, but my stance is very similar. The best way to help our kids navigate this process, both the negatives and positives, is to be on the journey with them, speak from a place of experience and listen and learn from a place of curiosity.  I don’t have all the answers, but I continue to look for them in the messiness of learning. 

P.S. The entirety of this post was written on a screen, and the reflection and processing for my learning is something that I see as invaluable to my growth.  I would not have done this on a notepad nor with a pen/pencil. As an adult, some doors opened for me that I had no interest in walking through as a kid.

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