#Sharethelove “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” by Sara Chare, freelance travel writer.
Sara Chare is a freelance travel writer. She has written and updated travel guides for Footprint Travel Guides, Rough Guide and Dorling Kindersley, and her work has appeared in publications such as Australia and New Zealand magazine, TNT Down Under, National Geographic Traveller (UK), easyJet Traveller and The Independent. She is happiest in a campervan, exploring the lesser-known parts of Australia. Failing that, some sunshine, a cup of tea and a piece of cake can make her day. To view Sara's website or follow Sara on Twitter, just use the links!
Sitting in a sunbeam, looking through the window at the ducks gliding slowly around the lake, and listening to the wind rustling the leaves I should have been as relaxed as can be as I sipped my morning coffee. Instead, I had my body pressed up against the glass, holding my mobile phone above my head trying to get enough signal to pick up text messages and emails.
I was spending a long weekend in Sweden, in the countryside just north of Gothenburg. It was peaceful, beautiful and surprisingly stressful. The house was off-grid. It was only minutes from the nearest town by car but there was no telephone, no television, no internet and very little mobile phone signal. In the silence I became convinced that dozens of people were desperately trying to reach me. I drove into town daily to visit the library and use the free Wi-Fi. If I went sightseeing, I roamed for network at every opportunity. The truth is though, I’m not that popular. There were no missed calls, only a handful of missed texts and a few work emails that needed attention. The world keeps on turning, even when you can’t keep track of it on Twitter.
After a few days, the tension eased. I left my phone in the dark folds of my bag and forgot about it for hours on end. My computer stayed on the dining table and was replaced by a good book. Just as I was getting used to this new way of living though, it was time to head back home.
So why am I writing about this? Because it was a good reminder just how connected we all are in our every day and how stressful it is when we first try and disconnect. A few years ago, whilst camping in the Australian Outback without access to mobile phone reception, I was convinced something terrible would happen whilst I was away and I would only find out a few days or weeks later when I made it back to the nearest town. A fear that Tomorrow, When the War Began taps into. It’s the Aussie one with the kids who go camping and, whilst they’re out there having fun, Australia is invaded and their town is overrun.
This isn’t to say that I’ve suddenly decided to ditch technology and go and live in the woods. I’m tempted some days but I can’t see it being very practical. As a travel writer I use technology an awful lot, and I’ve come to rely on it. My iPhone has become one of my must-pack accessories.
To illustrate this, I thought I’d take you on a little tour of my trusty phone. It’s more interesting than it sounds, I promise!
Email – Three email accounts at my fingertips. I can manage my everyday work emails whilst I’m on public transport, make plans with friends whilst I’m still in bed and half asleep, and during ad breaks can delete all the spam from the account I use when I buy anything online. This is what a smartphone is all about for me. Texts are phonecalls are also pretty useful too though!
Camera and photos – Amid the pictures of my niece and snaps of plates of food there are images of the Alps for use in a blog post, photos of menus and restaurant opening times for a guidebook update and some action shots of houseboating for a magazine article. When I don’t have my SLR to hand, or just want to take a photo whilst on the move my phone is awesome. Oh, and it really came in handy when I went off to Sri Lanka for work for three weeks and forgot to pack my camera charger…
Maps – Sooo useful, what more can I say. Same goes for the weather, passbook (hello, online boarding passes, I love you!) and the currency conversion apps.
Twitter – My go-to news source in the morning. If someone isn’t tweeting about it when you wake up, it can’t have been that bad. It’s also where I follow a lot of other people in my industry to see what they’re talking about, tourist information people and locals who love where they live. And I have a daily dose of cute kittens who show up in my feed to perk me up on a bad day.
Mahjong/Solitaire/music – All have provided essential entertainment at one point or another during research trips when bored or jetlagged.
Hipstamatic – Who doesn’t need atmospheric photos of beers in Talinn or elephants in Thailand?
Clock – It goes without saying that nearly all of us use the alarm clock on our phones. But I am a regular user of the world clock too. When I’m at home I check what time it is before messaging friends and family in Canada and Australia to try and avoid waking them up at 5am. When I’m away, it’s reassuring sometimes to know what time it is at home.
Notes – I still travel with a paper notebook and a biro but sometimes typing things into your phone is much more practical. For example, noting bird names whilst in a national park, riding in the back of a very bumpy jeep on safari. My phone is filled with little notes like ‘Milano, 180-1000, noodles, devilled dishes, chicken with cashew. No booze. Chop suey. Friendly. Locals and tourists.’ Or ‘Train to Hatton, group of men travelling in carriage, drumming and singing’. Needless to say, I need to type them up every evening otherwise they soon don’t mean much.
Voice recording – Great for interviews when you can slide it onto the table to record people’s answers but I also have some recordings of cicadas, the ocean and jungle night sounds on there.
WhatsApp – What can I say? You’ve replaced phone calls, texts and even Skype. I don’t know if I love you or hate you.
So, despite those times when Twitter depresses me – how do these people achieve all they achieve when I’m just proud of getting myself up, dressed and outside on some days – and I’m frustrated with work and I want to throw my computer against the wall and hide my phone under the duvet, I won’t be doing that any time soon. What I can recommend though is putting the tech down every once in a while. When you next see a beautiful sunset, or you have the chance to watch gorillas in Rwanda, don’t think about taking a selfie or messaging your friends to tell them about the experience. Just look around and appreciate it. As Ferris Bueller said: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”.
When do you use your smart device - and when don't you? Do you capture life whizzing past you or do you sometimes leave tech in the classroom or work? We'd love to hear why your me-machine is your "must-pack accessory" at home or in school.
We at TechnoTeachers are keen to share the love this month - what with it being the month of Valentine's (and Galentine's) and all. So. We asked our favourite bloggers to review our book and write for us - so we could share them with you!
Our pal, Mark Anderson, the ICT Evangelist, has just completed his read of TechnoTeaching and kindly posted this honest review . We are thrilled!
Here is the link! Do you agree?
Computers and students. A perfect combination, right up there with movies and popcorn. Children and adolescents seemingly can’t get enough of digital media. And well, we as adults are pretty hooked, too. But just as our favorite TV shows have a downside if we watch too many of them, one episode after another, so is it with technology. We now have research findings—two different studies, for two different age groups, in two different cultures—that suggest that too much technology may actually undermine students’ academic progress.
The first study came to us from Margherita.Cordano, a reporter who contributes to a Chilean newspaper, El Mercurio News. Through Ms. Cordano we learned about a study by academics at Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona in Spain on adolescents and information and communication technologies (ICTs). The students in this study were a sample of 5,538 secondary school students from the Vallès Occidental region of Catalonia during the 2011-12 school year.
The findings point to “a linear increase in school failure in relation to an increase in the hours spent on the computer and less control by parents,” Ms. Cordano said. “Nevertheless, the study shows that not using a computer at all also increases school failure up to 27 per cent,” she continued.
So, while these findings sound contradictory, think about it. If students are unsupervised when using ICTs, and if they go overboard (and honestly, who hasn’t from time to time?) their grades plummet. Also, it’s more enjoyable to use computers for chatting and games rather than conducting research; it takes a serious student to stay on task.
Here are our responses to Ms. Cordano’s questions about the study. As you’ll see we feel strongly about parents taking on the role of coaches and guides when children and adolescents use ICTs.
1. The study suggests that excessive use of ICT would be bad for academic performance, but this also happens if there is there is no access to a computer. Is it possible for teenagers to achieve a balance? What would you suggest? (MC)
This study underscores how important it is for families to engage in a dialogue about how and when children and adolescents can access personal devices and for what purpose.
While we can all agree that students need to have some access to digital media. They are the digital generation, after all, and many of their homework assignments require that they write or conduct research on the computer. But what is the balance? What about time with family and friends, physical exercise, reading a hardcopy text, and other non-screen time activities? These activities are important as well. The key is to find the right balance between being productive, socializing with friends, and playing games.
Parents have a key role to play here. They can help set limits. They can help students set aside the time they need to be productive (e.g., do homework) as well as gossiping and chatting with peers through IMS, apps, and video calls.
In other words, if young people spend most of their time chatting rather than doing homework, they clearly won’t get the grades they’re striving toward. (Jules & Nic)
2. What role should parents and teachers play? (MC)
A big role—as coaches and guides. The main issue with ICT is that media is changing rapidly and we are all learning as we go. At TechnoTeachers, we believe in taking a holistic view when it comes to technology. Apply common sense and chat about things with young learners. And most students, when they understand WHY something is bad for them, will make the right choice on their own.
Many schools have ICT usage policies. We suggest that families also make ‘codes of conduct’ at home. When is everyone allowed online and for what purpose? What technology use is allowed at home? Be clear about the guidelines and expectations.
As adults we need to remind young people that the more time they spend gossiping/gaming, the less they likely they will get that grade they want.
Lead by example. Make it clear when Smart Phones cannot be used at home (during lessons or at the dinner table for example) and when is it ok (when looking information or sharing images with your family).
Parents and teachers need to guide young people to ‘good’ performance and progress by creating social norms and codes that students can follow and understand––otherwise students will make their own. (J & N)
3. Why do you think that students using too much computers and videogames are associated with a higher risk of drug consumption? Do you think this has to do with little parent supervision? (MC)
It can be related to too little supervision and a growing sense of alienation among adolescents.
If parents are looking the other way, many teens will do what teens do––rebel, create their own ‘families’, and try to find their sense of self bit by bit.
The fact that some students choose to spend most of their discretionary time using devices (i.e., not engaged with their families) is often symptomatic of their feelings of isolation and loneliness.
If you think about it, many video games and social networks and forums are populated by older students who are struggling with self-esteem and confidence. In contrast, their high-achieving peers may spend more time socializing together—in person. Both forms of socializing can become a form of escapism––from poor academic grades, family breakdown, and/or bullying. You can understand why students who are coping with problems such as these might escape into a different world––a world where taking drugs can “improve” screen time.
We would encourage parents to give their children other options - what else can they do during their free time? How can they help their kids get though the teen years and provide healthier forms of escapism (e.g., books, movies, sports)?
Another way to think about the problem of substance abuse is that using digital media can be fun and it can also be work. An adolescent (or adult for that matter) can easily become addicted to pleasure. Taken to a ridiculous extreme, the use of digital media becomes an addiction, similar to an addiction to cannabis. (Jules & Nic)
Would you agree? What big ideas have we missed? Would you have responded differently?
I was mulling over this study today when I came upon an Op-Ed article in The New York Times by psychologist Susan Pinker (summarized in The Marshall Memo, 572, February 2, 2015). Dr. Pinker cites a longitudinal study by Duke University Economists, Jacob Vigdor and Helen Ladd (2010). Their findings suggested that technology can exacerbate the achievement gap in today’s schools. How? First, students in grades 5-8 who have greater access to computers at home do less well on reading and math tests than their peers with less access. Second, children who are allowed to roam the Internet freely, without supervision, tend to have lower grades. Last, the researchers found that a dip in reading scores among many boys and African Americans when they were given greater access to computers.
“Technology does have a role in education,” Dr. Pinker says. But she, too, urges for adults to supervise the time they spend online. And even more importantly, time spent surfing, chatting via social media, and downloading entertainment should not take the place of personal interactions with families and peers.
It sounds so obvious, doesn’t it? And yet . . . maybe this is a good wake-up call for all of us who believe that used well, educational technology can be a powerful tool for students who have the most to gain.
What do you think? Let us know via LinkedIn or write a comment below. Look forward to hearing from you! PS We will upload a link to the article once it is online.
UK-based Teacher & eLearning Coordinator- lover of geekness, creativity & music. Proud #PedagooCurator. ITL Associate, Google Certified Teacher, Curator of #lightbulbs - this #sharethelove guest blogger is Rachel Jones. To find out more, please visit her exciting blog Create Innovate Explore and follow her @rlj1981
My role is about supporting a community of learners in using technology. It is really only in the last terms that I have realised how wide ranging this is. Like any good classroom teacher, I am well aware of the need to differentiate, as well as challenge those under my technological care. When rolling out 1:1 technology in school, it is really vital to remember that your learners is basically everyone involved in the learning community of the school. The students, the staff, senior leadership team, governors, parents… everyone who has a stake in the life of the school has to be involved with, and catered for by the journey that the school is taking using technology.
Here are my top ideas for engaging with everyone that you need to so that your technology roll out has buy-in from those affected by it.
1 - Staff. Training need to be flexible. I offer lunchtime and evening CPD sessions, as well as providing 1:1 support in the classroom. You need to show staff how to make the technology work to their advantage, and stress that the children are the ones who will be using it to add to their existing learning. Give staff space and time to become accustomed to using technology, and most importantly foster a non judgemental atmosphere, where they feel comfortable to try using tech, and being OK with the idea that it might well fail. In a role like mine, you may well also cop the flack for things outside your control (iOS update disasters) but keep smiling - staff may feel insecure with their own capabilities, frustrations with things not working are not personal.
2 - SLT and governors. You need these on your side to make things happen. End of really. So do the extra mile at school to get them on your side, and work towards a clear shared vision of what having the technology in school hopes to accomplish.
3 - Pupils. In my experience school age children are really good at sharing on Instagram, but not so comfortable with the mechanics of using technology for learning. I run tutor group based iPad training sessions for our pupils, so that they know how to use things like Google Drive. Really, really don’t expect them to be digital natives. Alongside this be prepared to get fully involved in PSHE sessions on how to use the internet safely and responsibly. For me this has meant running sessions, assemblies, and even small help groups to talk through responsible use of iMessage. Remember every child is unique, and they will probably all need support of one type or another. You might like to consider setting up a Digital Leaders group of children keen on using technology. Mine are absolutely marvellous, and I am really proud of them proving student support as well as staff training.
4 - Parents. We tried to involve parents at all stages, so they have meetings when the child is accepted to school and then we run familiarisation sessions as well as back-to-the-classroom type workshops so that parents can see how the technology is being used. My school developed an iPad website to support information for parents and how technology is being used. Be open, be available to answer questions, be transparent in what you are hoping to achieve.
5- The wider community. I have worked really hard to share what we have been doing in school. I often blog about what we have been doing. Alongside this we are running an ICT conference, and iPad day and a TeachMeet. Share what you do - other people can learn from you, and it is very nurturing to be a part of a wider educational community.
The successful role out of iPads in school was not really about the technology, it was the human relationships that made the project a success.
Thank you to Rachel for being part of our #sharethelove conversation for February 2015. If you would like to be part of the conversation and have an edtech story you'd like to share, let us know!
Well an Agony Aunt anyway! If you have any teaching, learning, edtech or parenting queries - please contact me at email@example.com or via the InnovateMySchool Editor - firstname.lastname@example.org You never know - I might be able to help! Nic x
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This is where Jules and Nic will post articles, links to interesting sites and things that we think our TechnoTeachers will like.