When Being Connected is Not So Great
Let’s talk for a moment about the benefits of being connected. At the same time, let’s talk about some of the times when not being connected might be desirable. Not too long ago, my school, in Connecticut, located not too far away from Sandy Hook, had an “issue.” A threatening note was found in the high school that threatened harm to students and staff, although no specific names were mentioned. Needless to say, in these very nerve wracking times, the police were called in, the state police were called in, neighboring town police were called in–and so were the dogs. My particular grade was out of the building on a field trip. We were called back to the school before the field trip was over, and we were shuffled back into a building. The students from the high school had been in lockdown and evacuated into our building, so of course, the tweets, the Facebook postings, the text messages were flying invisibly through the air. In the absence of any true information, a cyber-version of the game Telephone was in action and the rumors spread like California wildfires. Anxious parents streamed to school and general chaos was the order of the day.
We, as we returned to the school now housing the evacuated high schoolers, were told to keep things normal-not that we knew anything anyway. Teachers are the last to know. But how is that possible when the text messages are flying, and the students are all on their hand-held devices. Within moments, I had a classroom of panicked children, reading text messages from older siblings who were scared, unsure of what was going on, and adding to the shark feeding frenzy. I saw poor digital citizenship in the works. I saw people jumping the gun, and jumping online to share the immediacy of what was happening, even if those involved did not know what was happening.
The need to be connected and the opportunity to share knowledge, to produce it, and consume it is one of the most beneficial constructs of the digital world today. We can all create a better world with our shared knowledge and collaboration. We can produce as a team more than we could ever produce alone–all with a click of a key. but danger lurks. For the first time in a long time, I cut the cord. I shut down the digital world. I confiscated those devices. Confiscated them (the theme of a previous blog post). I took them away and spent the time talking these children down face-to-face and eye-to-eye. I wonder how often these digital natives actually make eye contact with the people they communicate with on a daily basis. I did what my intuition told me to do. Cut the connection so that peace could settle into my classroom. I hope that I never have to do that again.