My dad, who worked third shift at the time, had to stop back at work to pick something up. As we entered his office, I remember being in awe of the fact that he had a computer. Back then, it was probably nothing more than a word processor. In fact, if you remember the show Doogie Howser, M.D., it was pretty similar to that computer: a big clunky machine with a blue screen where you could type things in white. I even remember typing my dad a letter as he gathered what he needed. To me, that computer was pure magic. I remember thinking that my dad was super cool because he had a real computer, just like the fancy people on television.
Fast forward to today. Now, almost everyone has some sort of electronic at their disposal. I have embraced this idea. I have a laptop that I use religiously. I have an iPad that I use to communicate with other staff members. I recently joined “the dark side” and got a real smartphone. It’s ironic that I tell my students to put down their electronics and then go ahead and use mine. I guess I thought I wasn’t too obsessed.
Then, all of that changed. Recently, my entire school district found themselves without the Internet, without WiFi, and without phones (we could still make calls within the school building, but no one could call in or out.) We couldn’t even get into our own documents because our “shared drive” was down. In essence, we were stuck. Students were unable to use their iPads, teachers had to struggle with using worksheets instead of different websites, and we as counselors could not look up students, type reports, or call parents.
What could we do?
Some teachers took their students outside for science class and applied what they were learning to the real world. Students went to the library to get books to read. We got out worksheets and had students doing things by hand. For some of the students, I’m sure this was torture. For me, though, it was exhilarating. So many times, I yearn for those days when you would complete all of your work by hand. I know it’s cheesy, but there’s something to be said about doing a math worksheet and getting pencil all over your hand.
But the best part was seeing all the interactions going on. Suddenly, people were not walking around with an iPad in their hands. People were not texting on their phones, since we had no service in the building. Students were spending their time talking.
As in having full, face-to-face conversations, without the aid of an electronic. It really made me smile to hear that. In addition, so many of my students solved their own problems without me! Because they had that time to communicate with each other, they were able to be more effective problem solvers.
I learned a lot from that day, and I hope my students did too. To me, the message was simple: Life is about more than just technology.
(To further emphasize this message, feel free to watch this awesome YouTube video called “Look Up.” Just a warning: there are one or two inappropriate words.)