After forgetting and missing the official dates last year, I’ve decided to take part in the official Turnoff Week this year and go screen-free from April 20-26. This is an idea that really intrigues me, because I can see every day in my classroom the effects of technology saturation on the minds — and bodies — of the students I teach.
On average, people watch 4 hours of television and then spend another 4 plus hours with computers, games, video, iPods and cell phones. According to Nielsen, the average World of Warcraft gamer plays for 892 minutes per week! The company that owns Second Life (a virtual world) claims that its users spent over 1 million hours on line. (http://www.screentime.org)
Recently, I’ve seen too many schools throw technology at students as a solution and not as a tool. I think that’s unfortunate because technology can do a great deal to help us, but it is not the end-all be-all of educating these children. Yes, I have a Promethean Board in my classroom that I absolutely love and that my kids enjoy using… and yes, it will be turned off for an entire week! I want to make sure that my students understand that we should be the masters of the machines, not the opposite.
I’ve always wanted to be conscious about how much television I watch, and how much time I spend on the computer, but I think it is all too often so much easier just to turn on the television when you’re tired and need a way to decompress after a long day. My wife and I have recounted the time we visited my family in Missouri a few years ago and the televisions were broken in both sets of grandparents’ houses. We agreed it was the best weekend we’ve ever spent. The only technology involved was the car radio! I learned more from and more about my grandparents in that one weekend than I think I had my entire life!
That being said, I want to be an example to my students that you don’t need an iPod or iPhone turned on 24 hours a day to be a fully-functioning human being. A teacher at a local high school has done this while relating it to Thoreau’s notion of “simplifying” and had his students give up their cell phones and agree to buy nothing but the “essentials” for one month. (http://archives.chicagotribune.com/2009/mar/07/local/chi-simple-lifemar07)
I’ll be curious to see just how many of my students decide to try going “screen-free” even just for a day or two. I think the novelty of the idea will grab a few of them, so I’m really looking forward to this. If nothing else, it will give me a chance to use the old typewriter that’s sitting up in the attic!