Do you have an iPhone? I don’t, although I’ve often wished I did. In fact I’ve never had a smart or smarter phone. I missed the wave that propelled the average lay person into ultra high tech gadgety-phones back in approximately 2007. I was living in Korea at the time, and got by on a borrowed phone, which probably cost me about $10 a month to operate. When I moved back to the US for a year and half, iPhones had just hit the market, but were out of my price range. So even though I have an iPad now, I’ve never been exposed too heavily to apps.
That’s why I was surprised to find out the other day that the average American spends 81minutes per day using apps, and another 74 minutes per day mindlessly surfing the internet. If you add it up, that’s 77.5 hours a month doing almost nothing. I once heard Jeff Utecht, the tech guy at International School Bangkok, say that our current students are a part of the “mobile generation.” These students, not only don’t remember a time when there was no internet, they don’t remember a time when there was no internet on their phones. Crazy…but no doubt true. It’s understandable that some believe that we can’t possibly expect these students to disconnect, since they were practically born connected.
On the other hand, I’ve been hearing more and more a similar message from some who argue that some of their clearest thoughts came not when they were plugged in, but when they retreated. This last week I had the chance to to speak to a superintendent at a major international school in Asia (look for more on this interview soon in The Leadership Project), and he echoed this idea when reflecting about the inspiration he gets from attending conferences saying, “the single most valuable part of going to a conference is having time…when you’re in a position like this you alway have people battling to get in and talk, and if you go away for a conference…you’ve got 2 or 3 days with nothing to do, just thinking time, away from the school, away from people pestering you, [and] some of my better ideas happen just because i’ve had time to reflect.”
As educators we constantly battle the noise and chaos that accompanies kids and communities, and just like a soldier on the battlefield, our senses shutdown and we focus on the things that matter at that moment (disclaimer: I’ve never been a soldier). It’s not surprising that amongst all that chaos we might find ourselves retreating, or escaping, to a new app, game or some other distractor. After all, it’s a lot easier to play Temple Run or Angry Birds, than it is to evaluate what is or isn’t working well at our schools.
This last week I listened to a podcast from Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota in the USA and the speaker echoed these thoughts and more (in fact I stole the apps facts from her), and although she is approaching the topic through the lens of the church, I believe many of her thoughts about community, boundaries, and space apply to every area of life, including international schools. Even if podcast-sermons aren’t your thing, I recommend a listen (I’ll post it below).
This week I have the opportunity to attend the EARCOS conference in Bangkok, and although I know my days will be filled with class, I also hope that it will give me time to think, evaluate and be inspired. If not by the presenters or the people around me, by simply allowing the chaos of the year to calm, and for misplaced good ideas to resurface. Let’s retreat!
Here’s the podcast I referred to: