Posted by: Ed Brazee | April 12, 2013

People, time, and learning—A balance worth achieving

This old piece of playground equipment reminds me of an essential concept in our high tech world…balance.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about balance—days when I push back from the computer late in the afternoon and realize that I’ve lost the sunniest or warmest part of the day to be outside; or those days when I only communicate with people virtually through texts, email, or Skype, not a real person in sight; or, even those days when my primary learning is through a series of video tutorials. But I’m an adult who grew up before technology and learned how to talk with people, develop relationships, and interpret cues that don’t necessarily come through a screen.

What about kids who are growing up now? Isn’t it critical for parents and teachers to help their children and students learn to achieve balance between technology use and the rest of their lives?

Here are several ideas I may talk to my future grandchildren about…

People. It’s all about people, not devices—relationships, talking with others face-to-face, learning how to negotiate, compromise, and work things out. These are the abilities that must be learned before we can use technology to do the same. Please pay attention to the people around you. As great as digital tools are for staying in touch—email, texts, and social media—good old-fashioned talking face-to-face is often the best way to go. Develop solid relationships based on trust and respect before you attempt to use digital tools to communicate with others. Don’t depend on email or texts or Facebook to say something you should say to someone face-to-face. Spend time with people and pay attention to them. When present with others, keep your phone in your pocket…and off.

Time. “How much screen time is too much?” Maybe that isn’t the right question. How about, “What should I do with my time? What is good for me? Good for my family? Good for my community?” When all we had was TV, our time in front of the tube was passive. We sat and watched. Now we have opportunities to interact, to be creative, collaborative, to learn from people across the world, and to make a difference in the communities we inhabit. Personally, I am trying to cut down my non-productive time online…mindless surfing comes to mind…to read about interesting things instead. What does that take? Some discipline and planning to select  intriguing ideas found here, here, and here. One more not-so-new idea—I also recommend more outside time. More people are writing about “nature deficit disorder” and the need for us to be outside and communing with nature.

Learning. What can we learn from the Internet? Do you watch reruns of Gilligan’s Island or TED talks? Do you watch YouTube’s favorites (LOL cats or teens jumping from moving trucks) versus watching tutorials to learn something new? Have you seen the number of videos that demonstrate learning to play the djembe, an African drum? Inspiring! Want to improve your tennis serve? Learn how to repair your bicycle? How about citizen science where you can participate in collecting and analyzing data for hundreds of projects across the world? Opportunities for learning abound on the Internet. And with more people curating resources and ideas it is becoming easier to separate some really good stuff from the rest. Currently at the top of my to learn list? Learn how to play a musical instrument and also learn how to code. And with online resources, I’m going to do it.

What do you say to your children or your students about balance?



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