Friday, March 1, 2013

My Big Backyard

Essential question: what are the effects of digital saturation on our cognition? In other words, does digital media hurt or help our ability to think clearly, understand new information and make good decisions. Is it possible that we over-rely on, or even abuse digital technology? Is it possible that digital over-stimulation hinders learning?

Students will ponder these questions while hiking on Cardigan Mountain. We will engage in a digital fast. No cell phone, iPad, iPod, iTouch, laptop, desktop, PSP or handheld of any kind. If the device has an on/off switch, we will avoid using it from Monday at noon until late afternoon on Thursday.

Today at lunch, Ms. Graciano and I asked the students to consider how many hours per day they use digital tech. At a 1:1 iPad school, they're online or using a computer of some sort for most of their studies. Outside of class, they're allowed to text everywhere on campus, including the dining hall. They maximize that freedom. As you walk from the dining hall to the theater you pass a row of iMacs and an 80" tv screen set to the incessant flashing, scrolling, and banner-ing of ESPN. Once inside McEvoy Theater, School Meetings frequently open and close with a video. Phones are collected for study hall. Otherwise, many students have only sleep as a respite from a digital screen.

If my tone sounds condemning, I apologize. I've benefited greatly from the iPad and two essential apps for teachers: Notability and GradeBookPro. I would not want to do my job without the trio. Also, teaching grammar without the ebook of A Writer's Reference and the companion website from Bedford St. Martins would make for very heavy sledding for the instructor and the students. This week in class, I polled forty-seven students about their preferences between taking a grammar quiz on their iPad or on an old-fashioned sheet of paper. Only one preferred the latter. Furthermore, the responses in support of the former were well reasoned and articulate. As many of the students noted, presenting one question on the screen at a time likely improves concentration. Everyone, even the girl who preferred paper, appreciated the instant results at the end of the quiz.

I'm not inferring digital tech is bad, only that it should be examined. That's what we'll do.

So, lots of words about digital tech and not much mention of the joys of tromping through the New
Hampshire woods in March. We'll climb Mt. Cardigan, track animals, learn to navigate with a compass, ponder the stars during a night hike, snowshoe and maybe even play a game of cards after dinner. All the while having one of the jewels of the AMC hut system to ourselves - other bookings at the lodge as of this morning: zero.

I'll post Thursday evening, as will the students. Have a great week.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoy your digital-free zone for as long as you can, Mr. Smither!