My bookshelf is stocked with Walking Dead comics and Max Brooks’ World War Z, and films like Zombieland and 28 Days Later are part of my repeat rewatch list, so it is no wonder that out of everything at ISTE 2015 I was most excited for a session called Surviving the Digital Zombie Apocalypse. However, it turned out that not only was the title engaging, but the session itself was exactly up my alley and hands down the best I saw at the conference.
When I tell people I work in educational technology, they often assume that I am all about using new technologies in all aspects of my life as soon as possible and as much as possible. Many are shocked to find that I eschew ereaders in favor of the smell of used bookstores, that I didn’t have a smartphone until a year ago, or that I feel nothing missing when I turn off my cell for Shabbat. With technology, in the classroom and out of it, I am all about finding a balance between implementing the digital while remaining connected to what is happening in real life.
Presented by Carl Hooker, Director of Innovation & Digital Learning in the Eanes Independent School District in Texas, this session looked at how we and our students can avoid becoming overly reliant on technology and be more productive by paying attention to balance. The presentation was based around Hooker’s acronym BRAINZ, which stands for Balance, Relationships, Aloneness, Interruption, Need, and Zen. Hooker recommended that we as adults practice what we preach and stop checking our phones every 5 minutes when we are with friends and family if we expect our students to not reach for their phones in class. He also made a few suggestions on how we and our students can be most productive by training ourselves to focus on one task at a time with the “pomodoro technique” rather than haphazardly multitasking. Last but not least, he led us through some fun activities like brain breaks that get students moving every15-20 minutes to get them refocused between periods of digital work.