Last night I finished The Winter of Our Disconnect by Susan Maushart, just in time to count in my February list of books read. This was also the first one I read on my kindle, which I found a bit ironic since as Maushart and her family shed their technology for six months, I used my technology to read about it.
Maushart chronicles the six months that she and her three teenage children - one son and two daughters- went unplugged. In addition to some of the events in these six months Maushart also includes a great deal of research about technology and how it has changed our world- not always for the better. This was the first time I used the bookmark feature on my kindle for many different passages - and will now have to practice how to retrieve them.
Maushart shares facts about several different school districts who have cut their technology budgets after looking at data showing that technology did nothing to bolster test scores. As an educator this seems like a no-brainer to me. It is also something my colleagues and I have discussed at different times. Yes, technology is wonderful (when it works) but when students still are unable to add or multiply, that "stuff" is irrelevant. I truly believe that students who have a good foundation - who are teachable- will be able to quickly pick up the technology aspect of things even if they may have been introduced to technology later in their education than some others. So, reading Maushart's evidence of this just reinforced my own views on the matter.
Another interesting piece of information Maushart included is about autism. The incidence of autism is on the rise- now diagnosed in 1 of 58 children. Perhaps television viewing is somewhat responsible. Although no one knows exactly what triggers autism, one gentleman looked at the incidence of autism in rainy weather states where children spend more time indoors watching TV. In those states, there are more children diagnosed with autism. And while TV alone does not cause autism, perhaps those children with a predisposition for autistic behavior are triggered by time in front of the screen. At the very least, television viewing does nothing to teach socialization skills, instead allowing children to, in fact, be more isolated. Yet another case for why not to have a television in children's bedrooms!
Maushart witnesses her own children doing things like reading and practicing the saxophone in their free time. She does admit that while one vice - their technology item of choice- is being taken away, another often presents itself. In the case of one daughter, instead of using Facebook or IMing she became almost attached to their landline, spending hours on the phone each day. Still, overall, Maushart witnessed her chidren spending more time talking to each other and becoming more connected as a family. And although Maushart calls herself a Digitial Immigrant - not having been born in the age of constant connectedness, she too suffers withdrawal from her different "toys," having to resort to handwriting all of her articles.
My mother is also reading this book on her Kindle, and I am interested in hearing her thoughts on it when she finishes. While technology has many benefits, there are many ways in which life would be easier - and perhaps of a better quality- if we all unplugged for a little while.