A Balancing Act

Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.- Mitchell Kapor

I’ve just returned from 2 weeks of vacation.  While away, I experienced 2 extremes of technology.  Part of my vacation was on beautiful Lake Champlain in Vermont.  Verdant pastures, mountains and cooler temperatures certainly made it a welcome change from the 100 plus degrees and oppressive humidity of Charleston.  With the beauty of this place, came absolutely no Verizon coverage.  No phone and very spotty wireless internet made it sometimes frustrating for my embarrassing need to connect.  After the first day of trying, I just turned my iPhone off and put it away.  The Vermonters like it that way I’m told…

In contrast, we spent a long layover in New York’s La Guardia airport.  Delta has recently installed 2,500 Ipads in the very small D terminal. Booths and bars were set up all over the terminal replacing the regular seats at the airline gates.  Ipads were everywhere.  Free to use.  Well, free limited use that is.  Certain apps were available for free. A convenient credit card swipe device was attached to each iPad if you wanted to go beyond the free apps.  I sat and watched as kids ran immediately to the devices and navigated their way easily to the games apps.  The adults were a little more apprehensive. A few even admonishing their children to “be careful” as they touched the iPads.  Many of the kids had never used one before based on the conversations going on around me.  The kids were engaged and busy and quiet. That was a welcome change from most airport experiences I’ve had lately.

So what’s the take away here?  I think it’s a good reminder of balance.  Being “off the grid” in Vermont was a little unsettling for me for the first 24 hours but it forced me to do other things.  In some ways, it was very freeing.  I couldn’t check email or voicemail or Facebook or text messages so I didn’t think about it.  The airport was as far removed from the quiet, pastoral lake setting as east is from west.  Everyone was connecting in some way with electronic devices, adults and kids alike.  Debate continues in my city about the need and value of iPads in the classroom.  Most are concerned about the financial commitment but many are concerned that students won’t experience hands on learning and interactivity with others if iPads are used.  Balance is the answer.  I’ve stated before that my kindergarten students still play in centers with blocks, paint, puzzles, games and even dress up.  We also use iPads as a tool for enhancing our learning in all subjects.  Any technology has the potential to be used inappropriately by teachers and by students.  It requires careful planning and teacher facilitation to be successful.

As I am wallowing in summer vacation and seldom know what day it is, my recent trip was a good reminder that we all need to unplug, go off the grid, and do other things from time to time.  School starts back for me in 5 weeks.  I think I will be like Scarlett O’Hara and “think about that tomorrow.”

How do you create balance in your fast-paced life?

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