Have you ever been 3 feet away from a porcupine on a leash? The reason I ask is because I recently had the opportunity to stay overnight at the Columbus Zoo with about 75 fifth graders. As you can imagine, the excitement was overflowing as they were able to be at the zoo when it was closed to the public, see exotic animals, and have a sleepover with 75 of their closest friends. The experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity for everyone involved.
One of the animals that was passed around to touch was an echidna. As the zookeeper stopped at different kids around the room, one particular student stood out — she had out her phone out, and was recording a video of her experience. As the echidna approached directly in front of her, she was gazing through the lense of her phone to make sure she was capturing the moment. As she reached out her hand in an attempt to touch the echidna, she missed it completely. Her depth perception was off as she gazed through her phone trying to capture the perfect moment.
When Our Phones Get In The Way
We're all guilty of missing moments in an effort to capture what could have been experienced rather than recorded. We scroll through our phones at restaurants when eating dinner with our families. We engage with our devices while driving. We bounce back and forth between apps. The ability to find tech-life balance is a struggle for both young and old alike.
“We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” — Thomas S. Monson
But technology isn’t going away. If anything, the amount of technology in our lives is only going to continue to increase. Running away or rejecting technology would be a detriment to all students — so rather than direct the wind, we must find ways to adjust the sails, and teach tech-life balance.
Pressing Pause To Find Tech-Life Balance
One way Hilliard City Schools is finding balance is by pressing pause. By pressing pause and putting down devices, our students are learning to be more mindful and are more purposeful when they resume using their device. One way I have personally practiced the skill of pressing pause with students is through the use of guided meditation. One app we use, Headspace, equips students with skills to understand how their mind works and the benefits of pressing pause in all areas of their lives.
When it comes to tech-life balance, the greatest impact you can have is to model a healthy balance yourself. Reflect on your current tech practices. Go into your settings to see how much time you are on your device, apps, or the Internet. Be vulnerable with your kids, students, and families.
When it comes to tech-life balance, the greatest impact you can have is to model a healthy balance yourself.
For example, this year I told a classroom of students that I was on Facebook for 5 hours in the last 7 days and that I was out of balance. I also let that same class know the positives of my tech use, and how I had used Keynote for 1 hour to create an awesome presentation that same week. Making time to have these conversations, sharing the positives of technology, and modelling a healthy tech-life balance is the best way to drive change!
To maintain a healthy tech-life balance is a daily journey. Whether you’ve missed an experience or you’re a master of balance already, don’t try and direct the wind — just keep adjusting your sails!
Jim Smalley is a Technology Integration Coach at Hilliard City Schools. He graduated from Heidelberg University and received a masters in curriculum and instruction from Ashland University. Has worked in every grade level K-5 in a 1:1 environment using iPads. Currently working in Hilliard City Schools outside of Columbus, OH. Enjoys coaching basketball, traveling with his wife, and spending time with his American Bulldog Max. Connect with him on Twitter @SmalleyTech or follow his weekly blog Think.Laugh.Cry.