Why Unplug?

It’s my pleasure to feature Academic Technology Director Grant Russell as my guest blogger…

Why are we unplugging on Friday, December 12?

I posed this question to several faculty members. Others offered their opinion without prompting. Here is a sampling of responses.

For more face time with students. To practice talking in person. To have time to reflect. To raise awareness about our technology use. To realize those moments when we reach for our devices and what that means. To challenge our students differently. To train intentional and academic use of technology. To refocus our attention on what this device is and does for us. To remember that technology is important at school.

This multitude of reasons speaks volumes of our faculty’s ability to think deeply about the pedagogical approach we are taking with the integration of technology into academics.

Despite the benefits that technology affords, we often focus on our perceived overdependence on it, the anxiety to be constantly connected, and other negative effects that it has on us. Email is a terrible monster. The Huffington Post sucks too much of my time. Snapchat, Instagram, and Yik Yak are overwhelming. I haven’t checked my text messages in 5 minutes – I just know that someone texted me! We tend to focus on technology’s intrusive elements and take for granted the wonder of these devices that enable us to know more, to do more, and to be more.

Yes, I am optimistic about the screen in front of me. No, I am not unaware of the challenges it presents to me. Part of me knowing more is knowing when to step away and look at and interact with the world around me. This is a skill that I practice. It is a skill that we all should practice. It is a skill that we are practicing when we unplug on Friday, December 12.

I would argue that mostly everyone knows that being intentional about technology use requires practice and reflection, and that perhaps the best way to use technology is in moderation. The difficult part is actually motivating ourselves to practice being intentional, to reflect, and to use technology in moderation. And so we can think of Friday, December
12, as a gentle catalyst for motivation.

I would also argue that being mindful of our interactions with our mobile devices is now an important aspect of education. Having open, honest, and sustained dialogue with students now about technological balance, fears, hopes, benefits, and challenges will be highly valuable once they leave for college and confront the next wave of technology without our guidance.

But let’s remember. Wonderful things can happen in the absence of mobile devices. Wonderful things can happen with mobile devices. Our challenge is to create a balance and to revel in the fact that we can have the best of both worlds and mitigate the perceived challenges that technology presents.

This is why we are unplugging on Friday, December 12.