Unplugged

Finally. After a semester of watching others present on various issues regarding education technology, Janelle, Kyle, and I would get the opportunity to enter into the “Great Ed Tech Debate”. But what an act to follow. The bar had been set extremely high in the preceding weeks, with many creative presentation methods having been utilized by other groups. Fortunately for us, past debaters were forthcoming with advice, and shared a number of strategies they found helpful as they presented to the class. In the end, we decided to open with an Animoto Video in which we argued, “We have become too dependent on technology and what we really need to do is unplug”. Or so we tried. Technical glitches, some spotty wifi connections, and bandwidth issues had us stopped in our tracks before we could even get going. I found myself wishing I was unplugged! But, with some tech wizardry from Alec and Katia, and the patience of our classmates, we were back on track and into the discussion.

We faced quite the formidable task: convince a class full of tech-savvy teachers why they should have their students unplug from technology. Sure, maybe this may have been easier at the start of the semester, but our audience had spent Six Weeks learning from the best Ed. Tech minds around! What we did have on our side was the promise of summer, and all of the fun reasons to get outdoors and away from our devices. So this is how we began:

Video Script:
Imagine yourself out for a dinner party with friends. You’re in the middle of a great story, building up for the killer finish when you look out at your friends and realize no one is paying attention. Your great story ends with a whimper, as they occasionally look up, laugh at the wrong parts and totally act like they were paying attention the entire time. You’re at a restaurant with all your friends and yet you feel so Lonely.
What is the reason your engaging dinner party has ended in distraction? The phone buzzing and whirring in their right hand has become more important than anything you have to say. Technology has advanced and simplified our world in countless ways, however it has led to us being more Lonely than ever before. Margie Warrell goes on to state that scientists have found that humans are wired to crave intimacy, but true intimacy requires vulnerability and that requires courage. Social media removes that vulnerability by allowing us to control what we share, pick and choose exactly what to say and what pictures to post, allowing us to create “friendships” a with a number of people doing the same as us. However, this friendship is only an illusion as these relationships are often superficial and shallow, unable to meet the demands genuine friendship entails. Despite boasting hundreds of Facebook friends and Instagram likes, deep down we just feel Lonely.
What types of feelings are conjured up by the thought of having your computer crash? Or how about your cell phone? Does the thought of forgetting it at home make you shudder? You might even be one of the many who would return to get it rather spend a whole day without access to Facebook or Twitter. As a society, we are becoming too reliant on our digital devices. It is time to take a step back and ask ourselves, have I become too dependent?
Many of us have heard the stories of high data charges incurred while travelling. With these warnings in mind, most of us switch our data off as we cross the border. If you have done this, I am certain you quickly became aware of all of the things you could no longer do. Using the internet to look-up a phone number? Nope. Finding an address using Google maps? No way. Checking your weather app for an updated forecast? Not a chance. Figuring out a tip? Translating a phrase? Would some of us even have the skills or knowledge to perform these tasks without a digital device? We have become too dependent.
About a month ago I attended my daughter’s final band concert. As she prepared herself to play, I noticed the many camcorders and cell phones around the auditorium being raised to capture the moment. People were fiddling with batteries, searching for SD cards, and adjusting tripods well into the opening measures of the song. It was during this time that I noticed these parents scrambling to capture the moment through the viewfinder of their device rather than enjoying the moment live and in the present. We have become too dependent
Examples of this dependency pop-up in the news all of the time. In May, a woman from Kitchener ended up in Lake Ontario after unquestioningly following the directions of her vehicle’s GPS.   She was not the first driver, nor will she be the last, to blindly follow her GPS into disaster.  An article by Crain’s New York Business warns us that our growing dependence on technology raises risks of malfunction and threatens the “Internet of things” – the billions of electronic devices and household appliances around the world which have become linked. The authors argue, without robust security measures, as a society we are becoming increasingly vulnerable to massive breakdowns through inadvertent glitches or malicious attacks. In our current state of technology dependency, breakdowns of a large-scale would be chaotic. We have become too dependent.
Technology has become an addiction. As strong as coffee or smoking or drugs. And it’s just as harmful to your health as it is to your mind. It holds us prisoner when we believe that we are connecting with hundreds of friends, when really we are only connecting our fingers to the keys. Gary Turk explains that “We open up our computers but it’s the doors we shut”.
Technology is ruining our relationships. We are lonely, anxious, depressed and isolated from our friends and family more so than we have ever been. 1 in 4 women reported their partner texting someone else during face to face conversations daily. 70-74% reported technology ruins relationships, and 62% reported technology interfering with their couple free time every day.
Margie Warrel explains that “While social networking is a great tool, there’s a profound difference between an online social network and a real one.” “When it comes to friends, quantity doesn’t equal quality.” – Warrell
Gary Turk explains that we have become “a generation of idiots, smartphones and dumb people” .So unplug. Pay attention to your children. “It’s not likely you’ll make world’s greatest Dad, if you can’t entertain a child without using an IPad” as Turk said. Go offline and go outside. Disconnect from the world and let your smile be your status update. Look Up… and share in the biggest moments of your life.   Who knows what you will experience when you unplug.

While looking for some research to back our group’s claim I came across a number of powerful resources I would like to share. One of my favourites was a YouTube video in which the speaker tries to convince the audience why we need to unplug.


The speaker argues that in a world of iMacs, iPhones, and selfies, as humans it is no wonder we have become more selfish and separate. He argues that social media should be reclassified for what it really is: an “anti social network” and he welcomes “a world where we smile when we have low batteries, ‘cuz that will mean we are one bar closer to humanity”.

A longer, but equally powerful video I came across was one titled, “The Anti-Social Network”.

This entertaining, fifteen minute video chronicles the dating experience of tech addicted individual, and it is interesting to watch the transformation as he learns to unplug.

I also found the Sherry Turkle TedTalk, Connected But Alone, to be especially insightful regarding societies increasing dependence on technology.  In the video Turkle suggests we are getting accustomed to being “alone together” and in the process end up “hiding from each other”.   She further argues, we expect more from technology and less from each other because technology appeals to us most where we are most vulnerable. She also states, technology gives us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. Eventually, being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved, and as a result, we feel connected but alone.

In the article, Text or Talk: Is Technology Making You Lonely? Margie Warrell argues that there is a very distinct difference between an online social network and a real one. Warrell asserts that people are feeling more alone than ever before, despite the connectedness offered through social media and urges that we must understand the limitations of our social networks and not expect it to do things it simply cannot do. It simply cannot fulfill our deep an innate need for intimacy, genuine connection, and real friendship.

Our opposition, Tayler, Nicole, and Angela provided a number of key arguments for the “Disagree” side of the debate. Full details of their opening argument are listed below:

The article, The Pointlessness of Unplugging by Casey N. Cep claimed it is impossible to completely unplug, because the world in which we live is digital. Cep argues, “For most of us, the modern world is full of gadgets and electronics, and we’d do better to reflect on how we can live there than to pretend we can live elsewhere.” While recognizing the potential negative impact the overuse of technology can have on our mental and physical health, the group offered the resource, Apps that Help Relieve Stress and Anxiety as an example of positive ways remaining plugged in can actually help us achieve balance.

The discussion brought up some very relevant points. A number of members of the class live (or travel) at a distance from family. For them social media is a very personal and intimate way to remain connected with the ones they love. Many pointed out the fact that judgment regarding the quality of digital vs “real-life” should not be made by others. These relationships have very personal value and meaning to individuals, and what works well for one person may not be good for another.

As was the case in most of the debates this term, the final statements of both groups called for moderation in the use of technology. Technology is not inherently bad – we just need to tweak the way we use it and build in times to unplug so that we can achieve balance between our digital and real self.

In the end, as I compose the final thoughts for my final assignment for my final Masters class I am grateful for the opportunity I have had to further my education. It has required many long hours of reading, and researching, and writing, and I have found myself in an almost continuous state of digital engagement these past four years. So, as we enter into holiday mode, I am happy to close this chapter of my life and to enjoy the promise of being unplugged for the next two months.  Thanks for listening.

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5 thoughts on “Unplugged

  1. I really enjoyed your blog post and the videos you shared! I definitely see the value in unplugging whenever the opportunity arises. Perhaps, meditation might be even more important now since living in a digital age is so much more distracting:)
    Well done, and congratulations on finishing your Master’s!!

    Like

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