Connected – Alone, Together

file6561312856929I teach with technology. I teach new teachers to teach with technology. I talk to teachers about teaching with technology. I am immersed and swim deeply in the ed tech pool. It’s in my Twitter, my blog, my personal learning focus. I am a connected educator. My connections reach out from my computer and mobile devices to local, regional, global friends, colleagues and like minded learners. How did this happen? Where and when did it happen? What do I do to find ways to stay closely connected while maintaining a sense of self? How do I disconnect when this is part of my persona?

I’ve used Sherry Turkle’s TED Talk Connected, but Alone? as a springboard for students to explore this notion of finding balance in this connected world. Now it’s my turn! It’s time to put the tech down, step away from the keyboard and find space for face-to-face conversations, quiet reflections and allow my mind to meander. Allison Fuisz just tried this while on March Break and blogged about her experience. She tweeted out to me and thus inspired this ‘Turkle Takeaway Time’. But I have to admit, I’m not finding it easy!

Once the connections are made, they are part of me, of my digital persona. These connections require time to maintain. There are conversations and ideas flowing from these sources and resources that will feed my mind, enlighten me, shape my actions. It’s not so much a fear of missing out (FOMO) but a feeling of sustenance. These connections could be as quick as a snack (just let me check my Twitter feed for a minute) or as substantial as a full course meal (ah Rhizo16 the banquet is being prepared!). Connections sustain me and fill me up.

While some connections are distractions, most support my digital presence and shape my digital self-portrait. I chose to engage, follow, wander where I will. But taking time away from my network and connectedness, making this a conscious choice to disconnect for a time, however long it may be…. is not easy. When was the last time you did this? Stopped! Did not pick up the mobile device! Did not check email or Twitter? How long does it last?

So I can thank Allison and Sherry for my next steps – disconnecting in a connected world. Not just a Twitter holiday, but a divestment of all things connected. I’ll focus on relationships in the real world, build my awareness of natural rather than digital entities and reflect deeply on what it means to be alone, together! It’s a reconnection of sorts, with people, places, conversations and activities, to feed my mind and soul in a different way! It may lead to new insights to my connected self! Allison – C’est la vie non?


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3 Responses to Connected – Alone, Together

  1. Rochelle G. says:

    When reading your blog, I really like the fact that you are very involved in the tech world. You have all these different outlets and ways to make connections with different people all around the world. Also, with the outlets you are using, you are able to reach a much broader and younger audience because many students are very involved with twitter and Facebook and immersed in social media. Upon the information you have given, I find it extremely accurate but also, that technology is running the world. I have also found it hard to step away from the computer and have more face to face personal conversations because of how involved I am in social media. For example, when I was younger and went to family functions, all the children would be in the same room but everyone would be on their phones. If we had conversations, it was about something we either saw on Instagram or a funny meme that was on twitter. My aunt or mom would then come around to check on us and would get mad at everyone but more so me because I was the oldest and should be encouraging conversation instead of participating and being anti-social and texting on my phone. Anti-social is what my family calls anything that involves technology in the presence of another human being. If you are typing on your computer in front of the family, you are considered anti-social. Even if you were trying to complete an assignment for class, it is still considered as you being disrespectful because you are in the company of another human being and ignoring them by typing away at some sort of technology. More recently, I have gotten better at stepping away from technology and not making it control my life. It took me awhile to realize this but I discovered this by a post that my dad sent me. This quote basically stated that you need to enjoy your loved ones and stay away from your phone because when you look up from your phone, your loved ones might not be there anymore. I took that quote very personally because it is true. The time that is taken on our cell phones or on social media is the time that we could be taking to spend with loved ones and friends and colleagues. Technology has consumed me but I do not like it because I miss out on conversations and experiences. Although, ever since my dad sent me that quote, I have found myself breaking away from the norm of being involved in technology. However, my brother has taken up that trend of being consumed with the tech world. My brother is attached to his phone and carries it with him wherever he goes. He is always on it, either texting or making calls and spends his time in his room on it day and night. He is so attached to his phone that he sleeps with it at night. My question that I am posing is, how can one go about slowly taking away technology when the world is becoming so tech savvy? There is even talk that real life stand in teachers will not be needed and that computers will be the ones to teach students. How can we showcase that technology is important but it is just as equally important to have that human to human contact in the world? Hopefully you can shed some light on this issue.

    Rochelle G.

  2. Nicole Diener says:

    I really enjoyed reading your blog. I found it extremely personal and easy to connect with. I think that we all have a digital portrait especially in this generation. It’s funny when my parents talk about when they were growing up. If anyone did something funny or silly it was just word of mouth that information would make its way around now we have video tapes and voice recordings. The world has changed so much and this is due to the ever-changing technology.
    I see myself as being very infused in technology. I have had Facebook since grade 9. At 14 years old my mom put her own email address in the login to allow her to check the activity on my Facebook account. Any notifications would go to my mom. When I was in grade 11 (16 years old) I changed the email address and my mom no longer was able to see the activity on my account. I think this was a great idea on my mom’s part. She was able to see what I was doing online without standing over my shoulder. I also have instagram and twitter. These are my social outlets. I can speak with my friends when I am sitting in my living room.
    I found the TED talk from Sherry Turkle very accurate. A text can mean so much to someone but can also mean so little. She made a wonderful point about how people are now alone together. What she means by this is that people use technology to be in many places while they are in one pace with other people in the present world. An example of this would be people sitting at a dinner table but also being on their cell phone actively on a social media account or doing work that they brought home. This seems to be part of the everyday life now. I find myself sometimes picking up my phone while I am eating dinner with my husband. We have now made a rule that we turn off our phones at dinnertime so that we can have uninterrupted conversations. The whole idea to become unplugged from technology is something that has become a challenge. I think it would be a unique experience to go without my cell phone for a week. I plan on doing this next summer when I go on a holiday.
    Do you think that it is important to take yourself out of the technology world? How long do you think is enough time to remove yourself from technology? I think that a break from technology is a challenge that many people may find hard because their everyday life is so connected to their phones and technology.

    • HJ.DeWaard says:

      Thanks for the comments Nicole. I have tried a ‘tech holiday’ for two weeks and found it challenging but refreshing to do. One of the worries I had was if my virtual connections and friends would understand that I was on a holiday. I set my email up to automatically reply to others but on twitter, Facebook or other social media spaces, this is not possible.

      I’ve also made an effort to voice my concerns when I’m having dinner with friends and family that the cellphones are not out or accessed during our time together. It’s really challenging to make this happen when everything we say, do or think becomes a social media report.

      I believe it has to be something we bring awareness to with our colleagues and students – making intentional and conscious decisions about where, when and why we use technology. This is also important in the classroom context! Sometimes taking our students out of tech is important to do.
      🙂 Helen

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