Finding the balance with technology and experiences

I spend a great deal of my time thinking about educational technology, and the implications of it on the future we are helping to shape for and with our students.  Like any teacher, these thoughts join me through the summer, and my mind reels with ideas and excitement for what the fall will bring.

My kids are very lucky in that though their dad is a technology guy, their grandparents have an acreage.  We spend plenty of time in the summer collecting bugs and frogs, spotting animals, building with real tools, taking trail rides and a myriad of other activities.  They get to balance ‘screen time’ with outdoor active engaged time, and I make a cogent effort to do so.  However, I know that this is not the case for every child.  In fact, I still wonder if my kids are getting the right amount of time away from technology, and what that amount of time is.

I advocate pretty hard for the inclusion of technology in the classroom, and believe strongly that students must have a familiarity and competence with using technology not only for their learning, but as blended with their life experience.  I bring my iPhone with me on all of our summer adventures, documenting the wonderful finds, fun activities and surprising events.  However, I also make a choice to stop at certain points to do this, so I can actively engage in the moment as well.  We do little for students if we are so engaged in the technology that it overshadows the event of learning.  It is this balance that can be so hard to find, and is so frustrating for teachers who are used to teaching without technology.  As teachers, we can argue that technology is not appropriate to every situation, in fact I hope that it isn’t.

There are some real tangibles in life that cannot be experienced on a computer or touch screen.  I see this as I watch my sons play with the frog we caught yesterday and built a habitat for, or in catching a real fish in the pond.  However, for every event that my sons experience, they can tie that event in to social media, to a storyboard or other digital documentation to relive and review what they have experienced.  Even in the warm, long days of summer, technology will no longer be far from our children, and there are ways to enhance and connect with live experiences that I never had as a child.  I think this is exciting, as long as we as teachers and parents think carefully about the amount and kinds of interactions appropriate to involve children in.