Without Moderation & Mindfulness Tech Can Diminish Our Personal Lives

Does too much technology, with our smart phones especially,os7iphone-2 interfere with the quality and the personal connections in our lives? Do we concentrate less because of the unceasing demands of our digital devices?

I’ve just finished reading Jonathon Safran Foer’s December 2016 article, Technology is Diminishing Us, and he makes thoughtful points about how, despite the good things that 21st Century digital devices bring to our lives, they can also diminish our daily emotional responses and contemplative experiences. The author reflects, with a personal emphasis, on digital distractions that increasingly disrupt of face-to-face communication, and his ideas connect well with the conclusions that Massachusetts Institution of Technology professor Sherry Turkle shares in her books Alone Together and Reclaiming Conversations, also well worth reading.

Foer, whose essay appeared in The Guardian, notes that early on technological innovations aimed to help people more easily accomplish daily life tasks — telephones replaced letters, answering machines supplemented phone calls, email made communication even easier, and texting easier still. Each change or invention sought to help people communicate more efficiently and effectively (in theory). Yet all this ease of use comes with caveats. The devices that connect us to others almost all of the time and to unlimited information whenever we seek it, have become electronic busybodies, obsessively notifying, alerting, locating, and suggesting (even when we try to turn many of the features off) as we attempt to concentrate, interact with others, and get things done. Most of us do little to stop these interruptions.                       Continue reading

Sleeping Without a Mobile Device Nearby — My Discoveries

bedsideGoing to sleep has sometimes been challenging because have a difficult time relaxing and settling down. My iPhone was complicating bedtime and probably my sleep. So about a month ago, a few weeks before New Year 2017, I separated my iPhone from my bedside, charging it about 20 feet away in a smaller room. I keep a book where my iPhone used to charge and read at least a few pages before bed.

The results after just four weeks have been remarkable. I go to sleep more easily and stay asleep because I am not awakened by dings or the phone suddenly lighting up. I don’t even get up as often in the middle of the night, and at least a few times I’ve slept straight through for five or more hours. According to my Fitbit, my restless periods have decreased by half on most nights, though that took a couple of weeks to occur. Also, I’ve finally stopped glancing in the direction of the iPhone, because it’s not there! Continue reading

After Buying a Device & Before Giving It to Kids — 2016 Update

iphone-6s

My new iPhone, purchased in early 2016.

Every 21st Century parent needs a holiday digital parenting checklist that describes the tasks to accomplish between purchasing a new digital device and watching a child gleefully unwrap it. This list gives parents a head start, identifying challenges, offering explanations, anticipating problems, and most importantly, setting the stage for responsible and respectful use of exciting but extraordinarily powerful devices.

The time adults spend preparing for new devices that enter a family’s life is well spent and spending that time up front  may well prevent a huge time drain later on after a your child experiences a connected world problem. Parents are simultaneously guides, limits setters, and lifeguards, whether or not they know as much about digital life as their children.

The MediaTechParenting 2016
         Digital Parents’ Holiday and Beyond Checklist        

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Starting Out With Digital Devices Is Just Like Learning to Swim

swim-meetThe minute a child gets that first web-connected mobile device, the adults in the family commit themselves to extended digital life “swimming lessons.”

Young swimmers become increasingly competent and skilled while at the same time needing adult support, supervision, and occasional intervention. Twenty-first Century digital natives require the same parental attention and guidance as they learn to operate safety and adroitly in the connected world waters. Swimming and connected-world activities, though they require long-term adult oversight, help children explore the world around them and gain confidence, learn new things and grow their abilities, learn to make good decisions and yes, avoid making bad ones. The key to their success is adult support.

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6 Digital Life Conversation Starters to Use in School Meetings, Discussions & Presentations

How much should parents know about the settings on children’s digital devices?

How much should parents know about the settings on children’s digital devices?

Now that back-to-school nights are about over, schools will be scheduling parent potlucks, curriculum nights, and educational seminars throughout the academic year. These activities offer lots of opportunity for educational communities to start conversations about the challenges — for parents and kids — of growing up in the connected world.

At all of these events administrators, teachers, and parents should plan to incorporate a few introductory comments that encourage parents think about helping their digital children become stronger learners, more savvy digital citizens, better consumers of content on their digital devices, and overall, more knowledgeable citizens.

Below are a few questions that can be shared at a school events and classroom presentations, questions that encourage parents to talk about managing life with 21st Century digital kids. While there are no right answers to these questions, the conversations provide adults an opportunity to talk about what works — and what does not —  in the context of young people’s school and social lives.

Choose one or at most two inquiries to use at each activity. Continue reading

Farewell Dr. Papert: May Your Technology & Learning Vision Live Forever!

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Professor Seymour Papert passed away recently.

A picture I took onside the MIT Media Lab.

A picture I took inside the MIT Media Lab.

While he had been fragile for some time following an accident, his extraordinary influence on teaching and learning, including how he really created the maker movement more than 25 years ago, will continue for many years to come.

Without his wisdom and vision, many educators in the school technology fields, where I spent most of my career,  would not have been fortunate enough to pursue exciting and deeply meaningful vocations. Every school, every teacher, every educational technology specialist, and every K-12 technology director can trace their professional activities back to Dr. Papert’s deep understanding of the power of learning with computers and digital devices. The Media Lab remembrance page notes that:

Papert’s career traversed a trio of influential movements: child development, artificial intelligence, and educational technologies. Based on his insights into children’s thinking and learning, Papert recognized that computers could be used not just to deliver information and instruction, but also to empower children to experiment, explore, and express themselves.

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My Itty-Bitty Bluetooth Speaker — Best Summer 2016 Travel Device

Looking down from the top.

Looking down from the top.

One of the most difficult decisions before leaving home at any time of year is deciding what digital devices to bring along on the trip. My laptop or just the iPad? My iPad and my iPhone? My digital camera or just my iPhone? Then there are all the chargers and the surge protector with extra USB ports that I now bring along.

This summer I discovered one more digital device that I cannot live without when we travel — a tiny JAM bluetooth speaker that has big sound and darn good quality. About the same size as the small plastic drinking glass that I bring along when I am not in hotels and weighing not much more, this speaker connects with my laptop or iPad or iPhone (doesn’t matter which devices I decide to bring or not bring).

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