Smart (hm) phones, television, video games, even the microwave (my student Graig taught me this)--make us dependent on mediated experiences. There's much more to say on this. For now, I'd like to report on three things we're doing about it.
CLASS AS SACRED SPACE: First, obviously, no live phones during class. But, further, no live phones in the classroom, either before or after class--and none during breaks. This freaks some students out. I have actually had someone drop a class because of this--and this wasn't a mother with primary care for six children and three aging parents and in-laws. It's a measure of the addiction, that someone can't take an hour or three off from the need to be absent. What happens? Our class becomes (take this in a non-sectarian spirit) a sacred--a safe space. Even before class starts--without the opportunity to la-la into the ether--students get to know each other--they talk, work on the projects, check in about readings, make plans to share books. They might actually pay attention to their hunger and eat. They come home to themselves and each other!
FAVOR PAPER: Screens make us, ironically, absent to each other. It's not the only thing--yesterday, a lovely student, who surely was listening, trailed off into doodling. We talked about it in class-that we felt that he wasn't fully present. In any case, I don't allow students to use any but paper media for in-class readings. I read my Shakespeare plays on my Kindle, but lug my completed to class. It's just a different experience to thumb paper. And there is something very moving about seeing students read from the same page. (Another blog.)
MEDIA FREEZE: I make a throwdown to conduct a media freeze: Identify your media addiction--anything that you use to avoid the voids in life (more on that in another blog). The usual ones, these days, include texting, Tweeting, Facebooking, Emailing, television, ear-bud traffic, video games. We know what makes us users--what keeps us from doing or being what we truly want--the thing without which we don't think we could survive. As I mentioned above, Graig, an avid culinary artist, realized that he uses the microwave instead of taking the time to cook. And ah, the difference between a nuked and a slow-baked potato! I hope Graig responds to this blog as to how he extended his media freeze.
Then set a duration of time to shutdown on that medium. Take notes on what happens. Keep your commitment.
It's years now, that my husband and I shut off the internet between midnight Saturday and midnight Sunday. I read a lot on Sundays, cook special meals, we have long schmoozy conversations and actually notice if one of us had some hair work.
But I'm a droid to my droid. I have spent hours on my phone playing Words With Friends--actually sitting on the couch with someone while we play each other. No eye contact there, although at least we can pass the pistachio bowl to each other. So I wrote to my WWF buddies--I'm taking a sabbatical. That was 4:00 AM.
It's 5:20 AM. Surprise! Surprise! I have made a commitment NOT to check out my games, NOT anticipate my next moves as I wait for my friends to make theirs, NOT to check out on myself.
What's filling the void? I started this blog. Hope you'll respond with your story.
© 2014 Susanna Rich