Why we all need to unplug!

In preparation for our debate, which can be viewed here:


I discovered that there was actually a lot to learn in the arguments for or against plugging in.

Among the most interesting, I found to be the arguments of Nathan Jurgenson and Sherry Turkle. While Jurgenson advocates in an augmented reality, Turkle argues that digital and real selves are very different in her Ted Talk that I found very interesting called Connected, but Alone?

An interesting experience that we uncovered was that of Paul Miller, who unplugged for a year, and came back to tell his story. He shared that in his experience unplugging, he did stop and smell the flowers. My life was full of serendipitous events: real life meetings, frisbee, bike rides, and Greek literature. With no clear idea how I did it, I wrote half my novel, and turned in an essay nearly every week to The Verge. I lost 15 pounds without really trying. I was a little bored, a little lonely, but I found it a wonderful change of pace.”

We did find so many great pieces that helped us make our argument that unplugging is not necessary. The 12 mobile apps that help relieve stress and anxiety were so interesting that I (ME!) downloaded a few of them and have been giving them a try.

I have to admit that ultimately I ended up on the wrong side of the debate, but I had a great time being there and I learned a lot. The reason that I wound up there was because I was too slow at using technology when signing up…ha. ha. As an academic, I see the value in both unplugging and staying plugged in. As a person, I wholeheartedly believe that we need, need to unplug.  Like Heidi  and Dean, I can’t wait to unplug and take a step  back from technology, because right now to me, technology means work. To be very honest, it has been a long two years of having evenings and weekends taken up by grad classes (even though I truly did love every one) and I am good and ready to frisbee my laptop into the lake off the dock.


Photo credit: Nicole Putz. Echo Lake, May 2016.

Going back to my first blog post in this class, I shared with classmates that I am an advocate for place based learning and outdoor education. I will take any opportunity to take learning outdoors for myself, my kids and my students. I believe that having a relationship with the natural landscape is critical for developing relationships with others, developing critical thinking skills, social awareness, and cultivating ones personal well being; just to name a few ideas. I quoted Richard Louv as speaking to the concept of the hybrid mind, stating that technology and nature have a will forge a beautiful relationship as we move into the future.

“The best preparation for the twenty-first century, therefore, may be a combination of natural and virtual experience. An instructor who trains young people to become the pilots of cruise ships describes “two kinds of students, those who are good at video games, who are terrific with the electronic steering; and those who grew up outside—they’re far better at having a special sense of where the ship is. We tend to get one or the other kind.” The first kind of student, he says, has a talent he prizes. “We have a lot of electronics on the ship.” The second kind of student has another talent he needs. That student, using a wider range of senses, “actually knows where the ship is.”  The ideal pilot, he says, is the person who has a balance of high-tech and natural knowledge: “We need people who have both ways of knowing the world.” In other words, a hybrid mind.”

As a teacher, I feel like it is as much my job to protect the rights of children to have access to the outdoors as it is to teach them literacy and numeracy. Its not that I don’t believe that technology has a beautiful place in our future. But right now, it is threatening the thing that I believe in most, and for that I won’t back down. As we as a society learn to balance, people on my end of the struggle will be allowed some breathing room.

At this point in time, everywhere I turn I see devices. People are behind them, operating them, being distracted by them, and missing out. The average amount of hours that children spend now in front of devices and not having face to face interactions, experiences, or being outdoors is appalling. In the article TV is Still King of Media Consumption monthly American statistic where published in January of 2013.

I can’t get the moment out of my head when I was in the pool at the Sandra Schmirler Leisure centre with my little man, singing the wheels on the bus and splashing, and noticing that every….single…parent…sitting on the perimeter of the pool…was looking down their phone. This moment is burned into my memory. Luke Braun is with me on this one, stating “I have been at countless swimming lessons, soccer games and play dates during which not a single parent was actually engaging with their kids or watching them at all.”  So balance? Yes of course, we don’t need to unplug if we have achieved balance. But we are no where near balance. Perhaps when the newness of tech wears off of society a bit, we may be better at managing our time and unplugging effortlessly. But right now we live in a society where people are willing to risk their lives and the lives of others around them so that they can be on their devices while driving! If this isn’t a wake up call, then I don’t know what is. It’s a call for people to unplug and practice unplugging so that knowing there is a time and a place for being plugged in becomes second nature.


Photo credit: Nicole Putz. Katepwa Beach, May 2015.

As students we just learned a great deal about technology; we are now ambassadors. As educators, we know that all great things are learned, so now we can go forward and teach. Have great summer everyone!


One thought on “Why we all need to unplug!

  1. You share some scary statistics in this post! It is crazy how much time people spend, on average, on their devices and with technology. That alone can convince me that we need to unplug from technology and we have become too dependent. Although, you did argue your side of the debate well and brought up some important arguments we really need to consider. I can’t lie, either; with this class and report card season, I feel as though I have been on my computer 24/7. I can’t wait until it is all over and I can take a little time away from the screen and go outdoors. Also, I have to say; your kids are adorable! Thanks for the post!


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