How Powering Off Can Help Us Truly Connect

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   In run up to the EFLS’ Power Off week – taking place the week of May 4 to 8 – Technology Teacher Wendy Whittle shares how important it is to teach our children about being good Digital Citizens and reminding us to connect as families with and without technology.

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OnCandylande of my favorite memories as a child was our Friday family game nights. The typical Friday night started with a call to order a pizza and deciding which board or card game to play for the evening. The record player was softly playing background music while the TV sat silent in the corner of the room (at that time, you had to turn it on and change the channel on the TV). If the phone rang, one of us would have to jump up to answer it because it was attached to the wall. And yes, it was a rotary dial phone! Now, I know you are all thinking…that Mrs. Whittle is really old…but let’s stick to the topic at hand! While we ate pizza and laughed about who just landed on the big slide in Candy Land or who was just given the honor of “old maid”, we talked about what was going on in our lives, planned a family vacation or just talked about the world. We spent time re-connecting as a family.

Compare that FTrivia Crackriday evening game night of my childhood to my current family’s game night. Picture my husband, daughter and I each scattered around the family room with our phones in hand playing against each other in a game of Trivia Crack. The TV is on and while waiting for my next turn, I am checking my twitter feed or responding to e-mails while my husband is reading a book on his kindle and my daughter is not only checking her twitter feed but also responding to texts from friends and completing her homework on her chromebook! The main sound is the room is the TV and the occasional “Ahhh, I should have known that answer!” While we are still connected, the focus is not entirely on each other.

I’m sure many of you remember when you were younger and you wanted to play with a friend after school. This meant making a phone call and hoping someone would be home. Otherwise, you or a parent would leave a message and at some point, that friend would get back to you. Today, a text goes out and is almost immediately returned with a response. Registering for any activity is now just a click away. Even pizza delivery is only a click away! If you don’t know the answer to a question, you or your child will just “Google” it.

Don’t get me wrong! I absolutely love technology; how it makes many things easier and I do strive to keep up with it. However, there are many days that I long for those quiet Friday Game Nights of my childhood.

Use of MediaToday, we as a society rarely dis-connect from the world at large and connect with our families or the people around us. Check out the graph taken from Statista http://www.statista.com/chart/1971/electronic-media-use/ that shows just how connected we are! Technology is everywhere and has become an integral part of our lives. Even as I write this blog, I am having to 1) stop to text my daughter about when I will be home 2) as a new e-mail arrives, I respond and 3) then begin typing again. What would it be like to set the computer, cell phone, TV aside for one week? Would I/we be able to do it? Could I/we spend time not being connected?

Digital CitizenAs the Technology Teacher at Point Road School, I feel it is my responsibility to help our students understand that being connected is the world in which we live and I try to help them safely navigate this world. In class, we discuss how to “Balance the Time” as described on the Digital Citizen poster in my classroom. We talk about how playing video games is ok but not for hours on end. We think about what it would be like if all we did was sit in front of a computer and not talk to our friends or go to exciting new places.

So at this point, you are probably wondering where I am going with all this. It’s simple…let’s all commit to dis-connect for one week and see if the world keeps spinning and our lives keep going. You don’t have to make it a 24-hour a day thing. Once the homework is done, plan time as a family to put all the technology aside. Play a game, go for a walk, or try a new flavor of ice cream at one of our town ice cream stores. I hope that you will discover your own “Family Game Night” moment in the process.

– Wendy Whittle, Technology Teacher, Point Road School

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