Technology is a constant. It is always on, always demanding that we pay attention.

This week’s focus is on mindfulness. How much do I pay attention to what I am doing online? How does it impact my relationships? How does the amount of time I spend online affect the state of my house?

ecard cleaning

A year offline, what I have learned

Paul Miller gave a TED Talk where he described his year without the internet.  He gave up texting and the internet and decided to focus on the things that mattered to him. Two questions that led him to his decision were,

  • How does the internet use me, and how do I use the internet?
  • At what point are my decisions and goals dictating my behavior on the internet, and at what point are the apps and the people and the processes … dictating and changing my behavior?”

These are great questions. Since we are the ones who navigate, we think that we are the ones dictating what happens. But wait, if that we true, then sites would not have trackers to see where we have been and what they can offer us.  Am I choosing what to do, or is another influencing my decisions?

In his quest to leave the internet behind, Paul soon found that he experienced complete freedom, and complete, excruciating, boredom. This allowed him to try to fill his time and he found that his solitude led to creativity, less drain led to emotional availability, and face-to-face conversations with friends and family led to improved relationships.

Conversation: 6/365

Photo CC – by Todd Fong

He also found that he spent the whole year on himself. Leaving the internet did not fix his problems. So he decided that he wanted to spend time focusing on others, caring for them. He had to find a balance. Find where the priority was and focus on that.

So Paul Miller did. He spent time with family, posted what he did on the internet, and found that he was able to choose to focus on others.

Social Experiment

One school in San Francisco asked their students to leave their devices and the internet behind for three days. The teachers did not actually expect kids to keep away from technology for three days, but they did want kids to become more cognizant of how technology intruded on other areas of student’s lives that they were unaware of.

So, what happens when teens try to disconnect from technology for three days?

They lived through it, though some did cheat and go back to their devices a little early. The students did see a difference in how they spent their time. Homework that used to take 5 hours a night, now only took 1½ without the distraction of the internet. Since answers to questions could not be Googled, students had to ask their parents for help. This led to kids having conversations with their parents.

Family Portrait

Photo CC – by Bo Gordy-Stith

How do I become more mindful?

In both situations the individuals went back to using technology on a daily basis. They hopefully were more aware of what they were doing online, and made an effort to say emotionally connected to people.

I don’t necessarily want to go on an internet fast, but I do want to be mindful of how I am spending my time. I want to make sure that, like Paul Miller, I have goals and decisions that are dictating my behavior on the internet. I do not want the internet to dictate to me what my goals and decisions should consist of.

In an article called Simplify the Internet the author makes the point that simplifying is about making choices about what will I share, and what am I willing to let go of. It is all about choices. Some great tips are presented to simplify use of social media, reading online, and email.

. . .

Am I accomplishing the things I want to when I search on the internet, or am I just being distracted by it?

It’s is time to think about mindfulness. And the state of my house.

ecard pinning


Have the courage to speak softly

 Susan Cain gave a TED Talk called The Power of Introverts.

Introverts are told they should work hard to be outgoing. Quiet and introverted is not going to work in this world, so try to pass as an extrovert. Be someone you are not.

Here is the truth: introverts are smart, creative, deep thinkers that develop unique answers to problems that others involved in groupthink may not be able to produce. According to Cain, introverts are not shy, they are just people who are more capable when in a quiet or low-key environment.

One-third to half of the population are introverts. This has educational implications that I need to remember as I work with students.

School is for extroverts

Classroom presentation

Photo CC- by City Year

What do you notice about the desks? They are for groups of students. How about reading? We do this in groups. Writing? Groups. Science? Math? Yep, it’s groups.

There is very little quiet time in school anymore, and the majority of classrooms and activities are centered around groups of students.

School is for extroverts. Please do not misunderstand, I recognize that learning to work together is a valuable exercise. We all need to pool our ideas at times to produce products. Learning alongside peers is a great way to make discoveries. Extroverts thrive in this type of environment because they are energized by people, noise, and activity.

The negative side to the extrovert-oriented classroom is that introverts tend to be isolated. They feel excluded in an environment where they should be involved. They are seen by others as loners, awkward, or shy.

We need to have balance in our classrooms. We need to meet the learning needs of extroverts and introverts. We should have collaboration, and times of individual work and thought.

Cain has four solutions (in bold). I just can’t say them any better than she can.

Stop the madness for constant group work. Just stop it!

We need to promote deep thinking in our schools. Deep thinking comes from being alone and working through ideas and concepts. Have a balance between learning that requires group work and learning that promotes thought and the building of ideas.

Go to the Wilderness

This means spend time alone at some point during the day. Learn who you are when no one else is around.

Take a look in your own suitcase (what do you bring?)

Extroverts put themselves out there. They are not afraid to show their thoughts, talents, and abilities. Introverts, though, are often guarded. Introverts need to be able to show others what is in their suitcase. They need to allow others to see their worth. As a teacher, I need to give introverted students a chance to shine in their own way.

Have the courage to speak softly

I want to give the introverts in my class an opportunity to speak what is on their mind. Even if it is a soft, quiet manner.

As an introvert, I enjoyed this TED Talk. As an introvert learning how to lead a classroom, I appreciate all the things it has made me think about.

Hack the system you’re in.

It's Your Duty to Hack

Homeschooling, private schooling, charter schools, public schools… the list goes on. Many platforms exist for the purpose of meeting the educational needs of students.

I just watched a TED Talk by a young teenager named Logan LaPlante. He Hackschools. It’s a homeschooling philosophy that uses life experiences to teach. It works for Logan, and he seems to be thriving.

From the TED Talk, one can see that Logan has rich opportunities to explore nature, business, physical activity, and more. His experiences have allowed him to see how the academics he is learning about relate to real world situations. As a result, he is intrinsically motivated to learn. (For more information about hackschooling and Logan’s TED Talk, visit hackschooling.net.)

In the TED Talk, Logan discusses the guiding principles that hackschooling is structured around: a creativity mindset, experiential classes and camps, tech and online resources, and 8 Happy and Healthy TLCS (Dr. Rodger Walsh’s Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes – they are diet/nutrition, time in nature, relationships, recreation, relaxation, and religious/spiritual).

Hackschooling is not for everybody. Some families do not have a parent at home during the day that can oversee the activities and learning of the child. Some families do not have the financial resources available to cover the expenses of such a schooling experience. Not all students would do well under a schooling method that requires that amount of self-guided learning. All learners are different, and what works for one, may not work for another.

If the school system were a spectrum, I think Public School and Hackschooling would lie on opposite ends. The philosophies of the two methods are very different. However, that does not mean that we have to disregard some of the hacks that Logan talks about in his TED Talk when we are looking at public education.

Public schools do not exist for the purpose of providing individualized learning experiences outside of the classroom. I wish there could be more field trips, nature camps, and exposure to the arts. Public schools do not have the resources or ability to provide a large number of these activities to students though.

We can, however, take our class on virtual field trips. We can have guests from other cultures or occupations into our classrooms to expose our students to the world around them. We can provide opportunities for kids to experiment and observe. As teachers we will need to think outside of the box in regard to how we expose kids to real life situations so students make connections between the academic world and the world they live in.

What we can do is to teach kids how to think critically. We can teach them how to problem solve.   We can help them discover their individual learning style. We can help them discover the areas within education that gets them excited. We can strive to develop in students intrinsic motivation that will help shape their lives and choices.

Rather than focus on what I can’t do within the walls of a public school classroom, I want to seek out innovative ways to bring the outside world in. I want to help my students think, read, apply, and create. I want to help make the lives of my students better.

I want to hack the school system I am in.

Photo CC: by Thomas Hawk