What Does It Mean To Disconnect?

I have been pondering this question for some time now. What does it mean to disconnect? We all say we need to. We all believe it’s healthy for us (any research out there?). What does it truly mean to disconnect.

Here are some scenarios I have been playing through my head:

  • I frequently go for runs with my wife. I have my phone strapped to my arm and it tracks my run via GPS and posts it for me and others in my running social-network to view and encourage me. Am I disconnected?
  • I went for a drive today listened to the radio, Sirius Satellite, and used the cars built-in GPS Navigation system to get to where I was going with live weather and traffic updates. Am I disconnected?
  • I worked out for an hour today with my phone strapped to my arm and the video of my workout pumping through my ear-buds. Am I disconnected?
  • If you listen to music while you run are you disconnected?
  • If you watch TV while you workout (drove pass a gym today that had them connected to the treadmill) are you disconnected?
  • I’m sitting here in my very quiet house eating dinner, no TV, no radio, just me my cat and this blog post. Am I disconnected?

I don’t know the answer to these but I am becoming increasingly frustrated with people saying we need to disconnect and then they turn around and use their built in GPS to navigate home. I know, I know…that’s different! Or is it?

The problem no longer has to do with disconnecting or the amount of screen time one gets. What the conversation I think needs to turn to is a simple one really.

Are you consuming, using or creating with technology?

What we really mean when we say “Kids need to have balance” or “I need to disconnect” isn’t really about disconnecting, I would argue, but rather about being less of a consumer.

TV and radio started it…so really it’s their fault (if you want someone to blame!). All you could do with that mass communication was consume. It turned us all into a bunch of consumers. Sitting around our radios and our television sets consuming information, relaxing, and just being. As far back as I can remember in my schooling years there were calls for a limit on the amount of TV we were suppose to watch…all of which is consuming.

So I want to have a different conversation. Sure we still need to disconnect in that out in nature, reflective zen sort of way. Totally for that.

But I also want to have the conversation that we start looking how we interact with technology.

How much time do I spend consuming vs creating?

To me this starts to get to the root of really what we are talking about.

1% Internet Rule

The 1% rule states that the number of people who create content on the Internet represents approximately 1% (or less) of the people actually viewing that content. For example, for every person who posts on a forum, generally about 99 other people are viewing that forum but not posting.

Let’s start with this. That approximately only 1% of people are actively creating content on the web today. In 2012 the BBC released a report saying the 1% Rule was no longer the case but I can not find anywhere in their report where they talk about the 1% creators. They talk about Lurkers becoming Contributors which basically means “Liking” a post or commenting on an update in Facebook, A Tweet or a ReTweet, or even a +1 on Google+. The article talks about participation not creation.

I have started asking this question when I present to the educators in the room. It’s a simple question really.

“How many of you take things from the web to use in your lessons and classroom?” Almost always 100%

“How many of you take the things you have created and share them on the web for others to use?” Almost always roughly 10%. Which falls short of the 80/20 Rule:

This can be compared with the similar rules known to information science, such as the 80/20 rule known as the Pareto principle, that 20 percent of a group will produce 80 percent of the activity, however the activity may be defined.

That saddens me really…..and then I think back to how much time we spend with technology simply consuming…we have created a technology consuming culture.

So what if we took a step back and we started evaluating the time we spend with technology on a consuming vs creating scale? Creation is the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy, creating is an active mind at work, creators/innovators/problem-solvers are what this world needs. If we look at our interactions with technology through this lens we see something different.

  • A student building a world in Mindcraft?
  • A student playing Fruit Ninja?
  • A student blogging?
  • A student reading Facebook updates?
  • A student spending hours programing a robot?
  • A student spending hours playing Madden Football?

Let’s take a step back and look at what we ask students to do in our classrooms. How much time in a given day do students create/innovate/problem-solve vs how much time do they consume?

What if we changed this?

What if we created….creators?

What if we allowed students to create things……anything really?

What if we quit blaming technology for “being connected all the time” and started to define the time as consuming vs creating?

My problem might be that I am a 1%er. I should track it but I probably end up with a reverse 80/20 rule. Where I create 80% of the time and consume 20% of the time.

Take some time to look at your own habits and those of the people around you and see if you notice the same thing. Spending time with technology is not a bad thing…it is how you spend that time that counts. Spend it wisely and it can be just as good as doing anything else.

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