Here’s my latest post for SDE’s Appleseeds Blog:
Finding the balance between using technology and being unplugged has become a real challenge. We benefit so much from having tools to help us learn, create, curate, and communicate, sometimes it is easy to get distracted by our resources and miss the very best moments of life. Let me explain.
If my family had a mantra, it just might be, “Let’s Hit the Road!” We love to travel and take vacations. It doesn’t matter if it’s a beach, the mountains, or anywhere in between. We are always ready to explore. Recently, we took a weekend trip to Chicago, one of our favorite places. We visited the Bean, had our deep dish pizza, and made our way to check out life under the sea at the Shedd’s Aquarium.
An interesting conversation emerged within minutes of our peering into the water tanks filled with colorful fish and peculiar eels. My son, Austin, was the first to notice so many people snapping pictures of anything that seemed to move without much thought to what they were photographing. Austin stated that as much as he enjoyed taking pictures, the aquarium should be experienced without photos. He said the memories made would be stronger if you actually interacted with the exhibits, animals, etc. by observing and reading the information provided by the aquarium. We all agreed and we leisurely moved from room to room taking in the sites and chatting about the unusual critters we noticed. We had a very relaxed and enjoyable tour.
The next day we were watching the local news as we prepared to go back out into the city and a story caught all our attention. The newscaster was reporting on recent scientific studies that seem to show our brains will remember more in places like museums and zoos if we experience them with our own senses and not through the camera lens. When most people take pictures at events or new locations, the shots are usually random and without much understanding of what they are photographing. The argument can be made that we take those photos to remember things later, but the research goes on to show that the chances of us actually looking at all those random pictures are slim to none. So, my brilliant son was correct! We all felt a lot better about not having nearly as many pictures on our phones and cameras from our travels the day before. There is power in just living in the moment and creating our own memories without the worry of snapping pictures at every turn.
I believe we need to remember this idea in the classroom as well. As we choose technology and digital tools, we want to balance them with hands on learning and rich discussions. We must live in the moment and have students experience learning with all their senses so that they will not only retain the information, but also create their own mental images of the content. It is certainly ok to snap a few pictures along the way. We just don’t want to miss something amazing while we are adjusting our cameras.