This weekend it was my intention to unplug and unwind. Another teacher and I decided to escape from the hustle and bustle of Seoul, ignore the stack of papers that needed to be graded, put our phones on silent and engage in some much needed quality time on the slopes of Alpensia in Pyeongchang.
Our QUALITY TIME resulted in texting friends and playing games on our iPhone when the three hour car ride turned into five, Skyping with Mum and Dad in Wales, listening to various artists on iTunes and having a SING OFF competition, updating our FB status that pinned our location to the slopes, getting out Google maps for directions since we were woefully lost and arriving at our resort and asking the front desk if they had Wifi. My attempt to connect with my TANGIBLE social circle collided with an onslaught of distractions within my VIRTUAL social circle.
Are they really that different? Isn’t a social circle all about being SOCIAL. Isn’t that what we all want – to feel connected? Why do we care what label is associated with it? Why do I feel the need to distinguish between being social in a tangible way – conversations that I can see/hear/experience in close proximity VERSUS being social in the virtual world – Skyping with my friends, sending pictures in a text or messaging little emoticons over Kakao talk?
Most of my teaching career, I have agreed with the technology naysayers, believing that time spent in front of a screen is not as valuable as time spent across from a friend in a coffee shop. I have always been the first to jump on the bandwagon of increased technology = diminished social skills.
We seem to only focus on two opposite ends of the spectrum: The generation that is still learning how to use technology – not always successfully.
Did you hear the Click?
Or the reverse generation like my 17 year old niece. Over Christmas break I wanted to take her to dinner to get caught up on her life and the conversations consisted of approximately 3 minutes of engaged conversation and 20 minutes of snap chatting her friend.
While I do believe that important social skills are learned/taught in tangible contexts, I also do not think that we need to technically throw the baby out with the bath water.
From reading the article World Without Walls: Learning Well with Others, I have found that maybe it is my view that needs to change. Why not MERGE my TANGIBLE social circle with my VIRTUAL social circle in the EDUCATIONAL setting? Isn’t this what our students do on a daily basis? I watch in amazement as they play their video games, chat online with another gamer and talk about their weekend with the person sitting next to them.
Socializing is happening in the classroom, it is just at a more high-tech pace. The information presented by Will Richardson resonated with me, “We must be adept at negotiating, planning, and nurturing the conversation with others…..not to mention maintaining a healthy balance between our face-to-face and virtual lives (another dance for which kids sorely need coaching).” It is all about balance. How do we teach the students how to properly maintain tangible social networks living in a virtual world.
Maybe as an educator I should stop snarling at the students who appear to not be paying attention to me, but rather assess what type of information they are recieving. Are they only consuming, only producing or are they being “prosumers?” Instead of sitting back and shaking my head as I read another LOL comment on Edmodo, maybe I need to create an organized chat room that is geared toward the unit we are studying. I need to create balance and find ways to merge the tangible climate with the virtual world we live in.
I read a blog that tugged at my heart strings tonight. The author of Facebook, A Virtual Social Circle, posted old pictures of her home in Social Circle (couldn’t make that one up even if I tried) and the memories that she associated with that time period. She discussed how her personal world suddenly collided with her virtual social circle. ”Say what you will about Facebook and privacy issues, but being able to meet the people even if only virtually through the internet is a gift with surprise deliveries like the one I received this morning.”
Isn’t that what is all about – the gift of connecting?
I wonder what type of VIRTUAL surprises I can deliver to my students this week?