Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winter of our Disconnect

I just finished Susan Maushart's fascinating book The Winter of our Disconnect: How three totally wired teenagers (and a mother who slept with her iPhone) Pulled the plug on their technology and lived to tell the tale.
Six months with no computers, iPods, television or video games. Screenless.
It was interesting to watch the psychological impact of her "study" on her family. She provides plenty of research along the way, such as the ability to "multi-task" and even the screen time's impact on children's diets.
As educators (and parents), I think we constantly battle with how much is too much. Were things really better in the "black and white days" as Maushart calls them. I loved one insight she provided which is while many older folks view reading as a more virtious activity than crawling the web, there is truly no more solitary, passive activity than reading. Sitting in a chair absorbing someone else's ideas and thoughts--ha!
Maushart pairs her experiment with a fascination of Henry David Thoreau, and calls on his wisdom to living a simpler life. So in my own little mini-experiment, I went 60 hours off line (full disclosure- I did watch one movie on DVD.) No checking my email or Facebook, no iPod. I'm not a cell phone user, so that wasn't a problem. But after the first full day of not checking my email--I was anxious. I might miss something important! At the same time, I felt more relaxed. Checking email always creeps into what Maushart calls WILF (What was I looking for?) following links, in a slow-mindless web search. Time away from the screen is good.
There is a lot to think about here. I highly recommend this book.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My love letter to Goodreads

Today is Valentine's Day. Not my favorite day of the year, since it feels so contrived, and if you are single, the media makes you out to be a loser. HA! to that I say. But I am a hopeless romantic when it comes to homemade cards. Especially when they are from children. That lifts my heart.

My true love today is Goodreads. I can't spend enough time with G. When I read, G is anxious to hear what I thought of the book. It makes perfect recommendations of other books I'll like. It shares what my friends are reading--which is my lifeline to great books. Goodreads never belittles me for reading a trashy novel once in a while, or for abandoning a book midstream if I hate it. G gently nudges me along when I'm stalled on a book, asking what page I'm on and if I'd like to update my status. It's also helping me reach my reading goal for the year, by tracking my progress. It's supportive and understanding. It's there when I need it. It's cute and fun. I've introduced it to my friends. It makes me feel good about myself. It is love.


I was happy to play around with Voicethread in preparation for this week's challenge. I think it is one of the most valuable and flexible web 2.0 tools. We've used it very successfully for digital storytelling and for presenting student research. When embedded in a blog, it offers parents and extended families a nice look into the student's work. Easy to use, reliable, privacy--vociethread has it all.