This morning on CNN I saw a short segment about a school in Toronto where students have committed to giving up their digital devices for a week. The plan certainly received some major press coverage, but is technology detox really a good idea.
The segment begins with the newscaster talking about a student writing a handwritten letter rather than typing an email. There is also a teacher interviewed who makes the following comment:
"To see them using books instead of their handheld devices for research, I love it, it's great!"
Hmmmm......neither of these "benefits" seem to make much sense to me. Is writing a letter or researching using books really more effective than using email or an internet search? It it truly "better"? I would argue that stepping away from technology in these examples is actually taking a step in the wrong direction.
The concept of a technology detox is certainly to get students thinking about how much they use technology and eventually cut back on that usage. That seems like a good idea because many would agree that some students are using technology too frequently. I wonder how students will react when their week of detox is finished. Will they naturally cut back on their technology use, or will they bing on a technology buffet? I'm betting on the technology buffet!
A better approach to getting students to think about and adjust their usage seems to be something a bit less extreme. Simply having students monitor how much they are using their phones, computers, ipods or other devices is a great starting point. Schools and teachers who worry students are missing things because of technology can certainly adjust their classroom requirements. In my classroom I addressed this issue by creating a rubric for a project that required students to include research from the internet and print materials.
This segment seemed to be another example of how individuals can be very irrational when dealing with students' overuse of technology. Does anyone really think these students can be productive members of society if they embrace a detox approach to technology throughout their lives?
Teaching responsible and appropriate use seems to be a much better approach. Schools should strive to educate students about when and how they should and shouldn't use their devices. Like many things, the solution to the issue of student technology use isn't at either extreme, but somewhere in the middle.