Random Thoughts

Back from Digital Darkness 2008

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I’m just getting back to things this morning after taking me week of Screen Free Time off. The first thing I did this morning was turn on my computer and start iTunes to download all the podcasts I missed last week. Interesting, I didn’t realize that was the first thing I would do until I did it. What does that say about communication and learning for me (I’m an auditory learner, BTW)? My hour bus ride is my podcast time and I missed it last week but did accomplish other tasks.

When I got to school I looked up last years post Back from Digital Darkness and reflected on what I wrote last year and how my experience was different last year compared to this year. Last year I wasn’t looking forward to the week, supporting my wife’s efforts at school as the elementary counselor was the reason.

This year I found myself looking forward to the week. Having an excuse not to get on the computer was very appealing. There are days I’m tired of being tied to technology. Don’t get me wrong, I love this stuff, but sometimes I’m just tired. It must be what baseball players look forward too during the All Star break. Just some time to take a couple days and not think about all of it….not have to be at a specific place at a specific time, or thinking…always thinking.

What I was most excited about I think was doing things that I continually put off in favor of or felt like I “had to” do.

So what did I accomplish last week:

Also my wife and I went bowling for the first time ever together and had some great walks around Shanghai just thinking and reflecting.

Why was this year different? I think I’ve come to understand that I do not need to be connected all the time, that the network is really good at holding information for me. I don’t have to be constantly connected to learn, I have the skills to go back and find out what I need to know. My network filters the best parts of the past week for me. Be it Twitter, RSS reader, podcasts, etc. I allow my network to tell me what I missed, from there I make a decision on what is important enough for me to go back and learn (What’s the skill here we need to be teaching?).

There is nothing that happened last week that is not there for me this week to learn.

There is nothing that happened last week that I can not search and find out about.

What I have come to understand is the web waits for you. It will hold the information for you until you are ready to learn it, ready to use it. It waits, paticiantly, always on, always gathering, catergorizing and remembering. I can take a week off because the web doesn’t.

I encourage everyone to take some time off. It doesn’t have to bee a week but two or three days in a row is a great experiment. It was funny listening to the elementary students who I think had an easier time with Screen Free week then their parents did. Many adults compained that they “just couldn’t” and others only did it from Monday to Friday claming the weekend doesn’t count. Why? Are we really that reliant on TVs and Computers during the weekend? What did people do on weekends before TV and computers?

I was on the computer during work hours, but only used it for work tasks (production time was amazing last week!) No Twitter, no personal e-mail, no RSS reader, etc.

When I left school at 3:30pm that was it, I would find other things to take my time and let the screens be.

Like last year, the cell phone was the one screen device that was allowed in our house. What does that say about that technology (no I don’t have an iPhone…just a plain old Nokia)?

So back to being connected, a book of ideas to write about, 682 things to read in my RSS Reader, and more songs to download to play on the guitar. 😉

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Jeff,

    Thanks for the reminder that whatever the web holds for me will be waiting when I return! I tried to go screenless for selfish reasons. I found it hard to take time off, but found it necessary as I wanted to spend time with my husband during his vacation. I’ve developed some baaaad habits of constant connectivity (they don’t call it a CRACKberry for nothing!). My colleagues had to send notes of “got it covered” when I would intercept emails allegedly forwarded to them.

    Hope you’re having fun getting caught up 🙂

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  3. This post brought a knowing grin to my face. I’ve been trying to do this pretty much every weekend…no screentime at all, unless you count movies. I have to wonder what relationship this all has to consumer mentality, or is it mostly just the drive to see things through to completion? It’s probably both, as things are rarely only one thing. Anyway, congratulations on your guitar practice. I think I’ll pull mine out today…

  4. Jeff,
    You sound quite relaxed after your tech-free week. Thanks for sharing the most important lesson you learned – that the web waits for us. That is a lesson that we can all benefit from.
    Re: the guitar playing – I was listening to Pink Floyd on the radio the other morning and enjoyed the guitar solo in one of the songs and realized how much I miss those amazing guitar solos – can you now compete with the guitarist greats of yesteryear?

    • um…..my guitar playing although getting better still has a long way to go. My wife at least now let’s me play without the door being closed…that I take as a great sign that I am improving. Today the door open tomorrow Pink Floyd 🙂

  5. This post really made me realize something. We are all head deep in technology all the time in our lives. It is also nice like you said to be screen free sometimes it just gives us time to think and not always in front of technology. Then as us also said right when you would get back you never realize who much you really do in a week cause when you come back you have to check it all. It also sounds like you had fun playing guitar hero over there for a while.

  6. Great post! As a classroom teacher I know that school work can be consuming if you do not keep up with everything, still then it can be overwhelming at times. However, I thought that was going to be different when I became an instructional technologist. My first year, I was so consumed with all things technology that I felt that I was losing a little bit of me (all the fun social stuff that I was once accustomed to). Three years later I have found there needs to be more of a balance inorder to achieve inner harmony and peace for myself and my family. I have now taken the oath that I leave my work at work. However, that hasn’t stopped the 11 or 12 hour days, but I get eveything done and am free to be with my family when I get home. Inner harmony…ahhhhhhhh.

  7. Reading things like this just makes me realize how obsessed the world has become with technology. Maybe we have to be constantly involved in technology because it is the future. To keep up with society you have to always be involved in the new trends and technology is the biggest trend of all. Sometimes I don’t think it is really our decision to be so attached, sometimes a cell phone or email is the only way to communicate. Or a lot of my assignments in school require me to use a computer, so what am I going to do, say “No, I can’t finish this project because I’m trying to distance myself from technology.” Yeah I don’t think my teachers would be too happy with that response.
    Then again some of this attachment is all free will, (even though no one can really make you use technology) choosing to check your web page, like MySpace or a FaceBook is completely optional. Or texting your family member that dinner is ready instead of walking those few steps to tell them yourself. I also liked how you pointed out that technology isn’t going anywhere, because I think that many people feel that if they don’t constantly check the internet for the latest news and updates in technology then they will miss it. As you put it,
    “There is nothing that happened last week that is not there for me this week to
    learn. There is nothing that happened last week that I can not search and
    find out about. What I have come to understand is the web waits for you.”
    That is such a brilliant and true statement, obviously technology is here to stay, that is until we discover the next big thing, but we have all the time to learn and do what we will with it. We all need to learn to not let technology control out life, and know that it is possible to live with out it, even for a week.

  8. I think the post means we should all get away from technology once and a while and enjoy everything else life has to offer.

  9. So, you go computer cold turkey and spend your time reading three books essentially about Web 2.0 and one about marketing.

    Why is this so virtuous?

    • Yeah, well that’s how I decided to spend my time. Of course that’s not all I did. I spent time with my wife and friends, went for walks through Shanghai and pondered life. I shared the part of my week that I thought was relevant to my readers.

      Is that good or bad?

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