I attended an alumni gathering in San Francisco recently for Shawnigan Lake School, the illustrious institution in the backwoods of Vancouver Island from which I attained my high school diploma (ZOMG! it has an entry in UrbanDictionary). At the event I made the acquaintance of another Kaye’s girl (that’s what we call the girls who lived in the Kaye’s boarding house) and she told me about her job as the office manager for Emandal, an educational farm in Mendocino county, CA, a few hours north of San Francisco. Whitney Donielson is also a blogger and told me about some of her projects and experiences with technology as a child, and while she was attending Shawnigan (when I was there we didn’t have computers in our rooms, let alone wifi or the ability to download Youtube videos to watch after lights out!). I asked her if she’d be willing to write a post about unplugging for my high-tech blog.
Unplugging is also part of a balanced media diet, and even though children’s librarians need to keep up with the lightning-fast pace of the digital publishing world for children, we also need to communicate to parents the necessity of leaving the iPad, smartphone, laptop, kindle, nook, or ipod at home every now and then. So take a peek at Emandal: A Place to Unwind, Breathe Deeply and Connect.
Technology Limited Post
About a year ago, shortly after graduating from college, I moved to a remote educational farm in Northern California to work in the office. The technology at the farm is limited by city standards: there’s no cell phone reception of any kind out here (only landline phones) and while there is internet access, it’s also limited: slow satellite internet that’s only accessible from the office area.
I’ve head my generation referred to as “technology natives.” While I wasn’t born knowing how to use a computer like all those YouTube videos of 18-month-olds using iPads, I did install AOL on my dad’s computer in 1st grade using one of those free CD-ROMs from the grocery store. Because I grew up with technology and computers, and because I’m working at a place that seeks to provide a space where folks can take a break from it, I’ve truly seen life on both sides of the spectrum.
While many schools and businesses are working to expand their use of technology and computers, the farm strives to remain a relatively technology-free space. During our summer Family Camp programs, we limit the areas where folks can use their phones, tablets, laptops, etc. While there are a few grumbles, for most guests, it’s the one time of year when they’re truly able to separate from their devices and they relish it.We also don’t use technology during our outdoor educational programs for elementary school students, instead relying on reading, discussions, physical activities, and other teaching tools. Most of the schools seem to like this, often requesting that our educators not even discuss technology or media with their students.
On the one hand, I wonder about the wisdom of limiting kid’s technology usage—surely it puts them at a disadvantage, living in such a computer reliant world—kids really are the future, and some day, they’re going to have to know how to run the servers and fix the automated traffic lights. It seems counterintuitive to shelter kids from such a significant part of their communities. And, of course, computers are an excellent tool both for teaching and learning.
But I’ve also watched kids revel in getting back to the basics, so to speak. I’ve witnessed kids spending hours reading books, hiking, swimming, and getting really dirty. I’ve watched kids fall under the spell of the animals, watched shy kids become more confident as they collect eggs from the chickens, and seen their pure joy as they spend hours picking wild blackberries.
I’ve realized that too much of anything can lead to oversaturation—we need books and computers, email and face-to-face communication. Balance is key, and while I don’t think we need to go the route of Ned Ludd and completely eschew technology, both kids and adults need to occasionally take some time to really unplug.