The Blurred Lines

Today at school I answered personal e-mail, updated my Facebook status, Tweeted, looked up flights for winter break, and even read articles that didn’t pertain to school.

Flickr ID: Señor Codo

And they say we’re becoming less productive at work.

What really is happening is the line between our work life and our social life is becoming blurred more and more every day.

It use to be easy to tell the two apart. The paper mill in my home town use to blow the whistle every morning at 6am and every evening at 4pm. We all told the time by the paper mill and for the workers it was a clear line between work life and social life.

For anyone working in the information or knowledge field, and anyone who has a cell phone and/or an Internet connection that whistle is meaning less and less.

And we all have our excuses but the truth of the matter is when we’re constantly connected we can constantly work and play. Sure I use some of my work time to do social things, yet I get home from work after 3pm and answer work e-mails, text faculty members about a computer problem, and work on lessons and things that need to be done. So it’s an even swap. I’ll use some of your time, you can use some of mine.

Of course teachers have always worked after school hours and if any profession deserves to take a little social time on the clock….it’s educators.

But educators are not alone, it’s a change we’re seeing in society. This hyper-connected, always-on, world we now live in is making it so our social life and work life are always intermixing. It’s your bosses ability to call you on the cell at 9pm to talk work, or the idea that you’ll read and answer e-mails via your BlackBerry after you leave the office. The employers are taking advantage of this hyper-connected world as well….why do you think they bought you a company cell phone? They still only pay you to work 8 hours a day.

So here’s the question:

If these two industrial worlds are collapsing to create a new singular world, what are we doing in schools to help students manage their time in this new world of constant access?

Many schools instead of breaking down the walls continue to build them up. You can’t be social while you’re “at work”. We don’t want you on Facebook, get off your phone, and don’t even think about texting in your hoodie!

Schools still believe, for students anyway, that when you’re at school it’s all about business and when you’re out of school then you can play. Yet we know this is not the world we now find ourselves in….and we know because we’re all in it!

I’m wrestling with this right now on just how much we should be blurring the lines for kids. When a student is give “free time” in class to finish an assignment is it OK if they decide to use that time to check Facebook, as long as they understand later that night we’re going to take their time to finish the assignment? After all “free time” implies that it’s my time right?