In my quest to extend my background knowledge of technology, I have immersed myself in learning using my computer, my iPad, my iPhone and even my FitBit. Experiences with distance learning, the PILOT (Professionals Investigating Learning Opportunities using Technology) inquiry with my staff, providing PREP for teachers in the computer lab at our school and participating in professional learning with colleagues online has kept me “plugged in” on a regular basis. At some times, my iPhone seems to have become an extension of my arm. Although I’ve made a concerted effort to take technology breaks, they are generally brief and not enough to direct my thinking elsewhere. This Spring Break that changed.
My husband and I went to Cuba for the first time. My homework revealed that internet access was not only expensive but it was unreliable. I also didn’t realize how safe Cuba was so I locked up all my technology and left it at home. My husband brought a tablet and his HTC android. The HTC did not take good pictures and the tablet was too big to be easily accessible so my vacation was largely without tech toys.
After a brief period of “disconnection withdrawal”, I was just fine not being online. Being in the tropics certainly makes the process of exhaling and relaxing happen easily. This is particularly the case when no one can get hold of you. I did miss the iPhone camera. It made me realize how often I snap photos of information rather than writing it down. Snapping photos also often helps me to record memories, create artistic photos to share and remember great writing ideas. I was delighted when I got home and had my iPhone camera accessible when I spotted the father eagle guarding the Kits Point nest. I snapped the pic and while I was looking down at it, he took flight and I missed it. I found myself wishing I had left the phone at home.
The merits of taking a technology break and enjoying the moment and the people you are with has obvious benefits. What I have found most surprising is the effort required to reconnect after the technology break. Communicating online requires the same investment as any face to face relationship. You need to devote the time in order to experience any kind of reciprocity. The real value of the break for me was the pause to re-evaluate the avenues that are most worthwhile to engage both online and offline. Strategic use rather than conditioned response is my new goal for tech use.