Tuning-Out the Technology

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I just read this tweet, and the article at 21k12 got me thinking about the issue of trust in regards to technology use.  As an elementary computer lab teacher, I deal with the 1-to-1 issue with 430 students from K-5th grades on a daily basis. Sometimes, I make use of Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) to lock the screens so students can’t access the computers.[media-credit name=”stock.xchng” align=”alignright” width=”300″]  [/media-credit](I generally don’t like to do that, and reading this article has shown me why- it’s not teaching them to handle the technology more responsibly… short sighted use of my technology.) Most of the time, students sit on the floor until they’ve been given instructions for the day and then move to their computer.  This week, I worked with several grade levels on projects that required them to both be in front of their computers and also follow instructions.  It’s a major challenge for them- not playing with Dashboard or drawing highlight boxes with their mouse (I’ll never understand the appeal of this but it’s obviously interesting to the under 12 crowd.) and listening to the speaker.  This article made me realize that it’s very important for me to begin stressing the importance of really attending to the teacher in the room with the world at their fingertips.  Training starts early- for puppies, marathoners, and children.  It needs to begin with me if my students are to learn how to tune-out the technology. I think it’s as much a training issue as a trust issue.  Have you tried to single-task with your computer in front of you lately? ((Granted, our multi-tasking is more ‘responsible’ than a child’s might be… we’re probably not checking Facebook, IMing, or texting under the table rather than listening, but isn’t it the same thing?))

It’s hard to do this!  Even as adults, we’re often asked to 45 degree our laptops in meetings so we can attend to the present.  Do I think that’s necessary or effective?  Not sure.  At ISTE, there was much discussion about how the teacher needs to be engaging enough to hold the attention of the students in spite of the tech, and that if we’re not we need to find a way to teach that does engage students.  THAT is certainly a complex issue for another day… I do know that it’s very easy to hop from one thing to another with a computer in front of us- multitasking mania!  I suffer from this… check Twitter, follow a link, start a blog post, find another link, add it to my computer lab blog, check email, balance the checkbook, check Feedburner stats, look up a calendar entry, watch a movie on Hulu, fix a link on my school site.  Our work isn’t streamlined…. it’s this great tangled web.  I’m working to manage this by following some of Leo Babauta’s tips from Zen Habits.  Turn off everything but what you need to do the task you’re focusing on at the moment. Now, work on that one thing.  Try it.  It’s HARD!

I find that I need to address that with young students.  They live in a multi-tasking world where learning to focus and concentrate is the key to creativity.  The 1-to-1 environment by high school will likely be a reality for every single one of my students.  I can help them learn this now.  This is a major part of Digital Citizenship within the ISTE NETS*S– “advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology.” I think it’s asking much of our young people, but I also think it’s a vital 21st century life skill.

Are you able to single-task with your tech in front of you? Have you found yourself reading email or checking Twitter during a meeting lately?  How does that translate to teaching students with tech at their fingertips?

2 thoughts on “Tuning-Out the Technology”

  1. I think it is an important habit to teach students to attend to a speaker. Regardless of what technology has done for the world we live in, it is still important to understand how to be respectful. Respect means to give a speaker your full attention, even if you would rather be doing something else. Respect means giving someone eye contact as you speak to them. Respect must be taught. I struggled with this in the computer lab as well (those highlight boxes are some kinda fun). With my younger students I taught them to sit on their hands while someone was speaking or presenting with their eyes glued on the speaker. With the older students, I asked them to put their hands in their laps. This was HARD for most of them. I often see parents undoing these important skills and allowing their kids to play video games without looking up while they are answering a question. Parents aren’t always good models either, they answer with one word responses while texting.

  2. Where does backchanneling fit in? How important is eye contact? What are my values? my mindset? How does it compare to my students? These are all questions that I think about. When is it important to tune out tech and simply be in the moment? I discuss these questions with students and we develop agreements. I think that’s important because often, we have different perspectives of what’s ok and what isn’t in technology use.

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