I’m not an early adopter to new technology. In fact, my relationship with technology is complicated at best. I’m a reluctant user, especially when I need to create and remember new login details with accompanying passwords that require capitals, symbols and numbers.
Online I enjoy reading articles on health and education, Australian news, social gossip through Facebook, emailing, using Skype, pinning on Pinterest and looking at a variety of travel, food and style blogs, at my own leisure.
I take a while to warm to new technological ways. I didn’t get a Gmail account until recently and I’m yet to break the habit of using Internet Explorer rather than Chrome. I’ve had three phones in 14 years, all which were hand-me downs. I was happily using my Nokia phone until I got an Apple iPhone in 2012, while everyone else got theirs when iPhones entered the market in 2007.
Getting an Apple iPad in 2012 changed my understanding, approach and how I used technology. My iPad initially sat unopened in a corner for three months, until I finally set it up. Nowadays, I regularly use it for up to two hours a day, for the internet, apps and I use iView occasionally.
Its versatility means I take it to work and I have taken it overseas too. I find it to be the ultimate tool for most things I need when it comes to technology.
Despite my inconsistent enthusiasm for technology, there is no doubt I rely heavily on it. I use it every day, probably every hour, in both a professional and personal capacity. However, my dependency on technology reached new levels when I continued to check work emails at 10pm and allowed technology to interrupt my life. I would constantly check and respond to my phone, even in the company of others.
In the classroom, I rely on technology and need it for my role as a teacher. I use a laptop (hired from the department at a reduced rate) my own personal iPad, the Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) and class sets of iPad minis and netbook computers that are connected to the school Wi-Fi and are shared amongst the junior school.
Information Computer Technology (ICT) is integrated into most areas of the curriculum. Each day I use ICT to introduce a concept, revisit content already learned or for an introduction of a new lesson. There is usually a small group of students who participate in an ICT activity in reading groups. Students also have a weekly timetabled lesson to focus on the explicit teaching of ICT skills and they use ICT at their own pace.
At work, I used my laptop for team planning, filling out department forms online, collating data and assessment, creating lesson plans and templates, writing reports, noting attendance through Compass, writing and responding to emails and modelling lessons with students.
It got to a point when it was all too much and I reached technology overload. I decided I had become too reliant on different forms of technology, using my iPhone to and from work, my laptop at work and my iPad at home. I constantly had immediate access and I got anxious if I couldn’t check my phone regularly.
It seems I’m not alone in wrestling my internet/Wi-Fi/technology addiction. A study by Cisco found that young people are reliant on their phones and technology, to the point it “drives every facet of their lives” as described by Cisco’s chief technology officer, Kevin Bloch.
The study found that “nine out of 10 of the 3800 people under 30 years old surveyed were addicted to their smartphone and, in fact, one out of five is checking their smartphone every 10 minutes.”
So I decided to run my own experiment and monitor my everyday use of technology one day and then dramatically reduce it the following day.
One Sunday night, my brother gave me his Netflix login details as he wasn’t going to use it while he was in Japan for a month. I’d never had cable TV so I was excited despite not understanding what it was. Using Netflix, I found the Orange is the New Black series and I watched the first three episodes. Afterwards I used a private message on Facebook to confirm a time to call a friend in New York and we had a brief chat over Skype. Before bed I switched my phone off and set my alarm using my iPad.
On Monday morning I checked the Bureau of Meterology’s website and rain radar to determine if I needed my umbrella, news.com.au and ninemsn.com.au for the news of the day, Facebook for any updates and my work email, all before I was out of bed. On the way to the bus stop I checked Facebook and news.com.au again, even though I had checked it earlier.
As I continued my journey to work, I needlessly checked links and articles through Facebook again and read the health, art, style and education sections of nytimes.com.
As soon as I got to work I logged on to my emails and responded. My favourite websites automatically popped up, including educationhq.com and news.com.au, again. We had two hours of team planning and each teacher brought their own laptop.
We planned for the following week and used the internet to refer to search engines including google, the ACARA website and Ausvels for progression points, MacMillan Springboard Big Books and found hook or introduction clips on YouTube via other teaching websites.
At recess time I checked my phone and proceeded to surf the net at my own leisure and again check my emails.
When my students came to class, we began our two-hour literacy block and used the IWB for an introduction using readingeggs.com.au and storybots.com. I often referred to my planner which was on our staff drive online. When the students broke into reading groups, one station had a component of ICT using the iPads. On this occasion, students worked in pairs. A student used the app Quick Voice to record their partner reading a text, and both viewed it back, to reflect on their fluency and intonation. As a class, we watched the recordings and discussed what they did well.
Students completed their daily meditation session through the website smilingmind.com.au which is described on the website as a ‘unique web and app-based program developed by a team of psychologists with expertise in youth and adolescent therapy, mindfulness meditation and web-based wellness programs’.
Used across many schools and workplaces, students respond well to it because it’s ‘a simple tool that gives a sense of calm, clarity and contentment’.
Again, at lunch I checked emails, read news websites and on my phone responded to texts and made a call before yard duty.
During mathematics, I used the IWB to show the class a section from mathletics.com.au and watched a catchy clip from harrykindergartenmusic.com, two links I often use as learning hooks at the beginning of a numeracy lesson. Generally students don’t engage with technology during numeracy because there is a greater focus on the use of manipulatives.
At the staff meeting after work teachers brought their own laptops for training, contributing to documents and referring to websites.
I used my phone for the duration of my trip home using public transport. After dinner, I swung between Pinterest and Facebook, news websites and other links for a couple of hours on my iPad. As I reflected on my day, I realised I accessed technology far more that I consciously recognised.
The following day was going to be different. My aim was to consciously reduce my use of technology.
So on Tuesday morning I left my phone switched off and didn’t access my iPad before getting up. As I ate breakfast I felt as though I was missing out on something important. I took a book to read on public transport and I was surprised that I read 32 pages. I glanced at the people on the train and most were using technology, ranging from laptops, iPhones or smartphones, iPads, kindles, headphones or playing phone games. Only two people were reading a magazine and a newspaper.
It wasn’t just me, society was well connected to technology, too. At work I gave myself 20 minutes at the start of the day to check emails and I didn’t view news or scroll through social media. I surprised myself as I got the necessary done in my 20-minute time frame and then switched my phone on just before nine o’clock.
During our literacy block I referred to our planner and ran a speaking and listening activity rather than screening a YouTube clip for the introduction. We had our reading groups and I continued with one group stationed on an ICT activity.
During recess I grabbed a green tea without checking the net or my phone. I felt a sense of urgency to remain updated and informed but I also enjoyed not being confined to the demands of technology and as a bonus, I had freed-up some time, too.
During mathematics, we played buzz for the hook and used manipulatives for the lesson.
For our inquiry unit on living things, our class made use of the veggie garden and used their writing books to respond by drawing and writing about what they saw.
As a class we watched a Smiling Minds clip with the IWB.
At lunch I was on a strict technology ban, no phone, internet or access to emails. At the end of the day I allowed for another 20 minutes to cram in some brief email responses.
Getting home on public transport I read another 20 pages and wrote a list of things to do for the days ahead. Rather than spend a couple of hours on my iPad at home, I used the extra time doing tasks I otherwise would have left to the weekend.
Technology has its place both in the classroom and in our everyday lives. I found that by redefining how and when I use it over a two-day period did reap some benefits. I’m now trying to consciously check Facebook, Pinterest and work emails less and I’m enforcing this by only accessing them at designated times of the day.
Otherwise, the constant connection can become a distraction. I continue to get enjoyment from scrolling to find articles and watching clips recommended by friends but being connected less has led to a better sense of clarity and more focus.
I hope that I can continue to reduce my unstructured or meaningless technology interactions and use it in a better capacity and only when I really need it!