→ iPhone users can track their screen time usage and get a detailed sense of how they spend their time on their phones and how often they rely on their phones during any given day.
→ Silicon Valley schools and parents are re-thinking the role of screen time and devices.
→ Researchers are wondering what the impact of technology devices is on growing brains.
→ Policymakers and educators are asking if there is a correlation between too much screen time and mental health concerns (i.e. anxiety, suicidality, etc.).
These are just some of the recent headlines and concerns pulled from our wired-world that demonstrate what Director of Teaching and Learning Kelsey Berry and other educators at Holderness School are considering. Essentially, how do we get the benefits of technology but not experience unintended and possibly unfavorable consequences?
In a faculty meeting at the beginning of the school year, Kelsey introduced this question as a focused theme for the academic year. She shared a quick video clip of Carson, the butler on Downton Abbey first learning how to use the then brand new technology of the telephone and asked the faculty to digest and discuss readings from Joi Ito and Jeff Howe’s Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future.
During Fall Parents Weekend, Kelsey provided a mini-workshop for parents evoking the history of technology and shared the questions the community is grappling with this year as we consider what is best for our students, their learning, our community. The goal is to create confident Holderness alumni who have the tools and awareness they need as technology continues to disrupt norms.
Don’t misunderstand the intent of this exploration. Kelsey and the educators at Holderness have a definitive existing approach and policy on the use of technology. While the school embraces technological advances, it seeks to put human relationships and real-time connections as primary. There is a “no cell phone use in public places rule” and some of our special programs prohibit the use of cell phones during the March experience. There is an established approach to technology.
And yet, as Kelsey shared with the assembled school in a recent screening of the film, Screenagers, our students are guinea pigs in this real world era of technological expansion. Technology is an exploding force and is pushing the boundaries of innovation as well as how we interact with each other. As learners, we need to arm ourselves with questions and continue to consider the implications of our behavior. To this end, through varied events and stakeholders, Kelsey is orchestrating conversations and assessments that will help us either confirm existing rules around technology or foster news ones. The process is slow, maybe luxuriously slow by today’s fast-paced standards, but that slowness is enabling deep and rich thinking.
This year-long exploration also offers avenues for discussions beyond the academic space and beyond Holderness School. During Winter Parents Weekend, Screenagers will be shown in Hagerman on Friday, February 1 at 7:30 PM. Parents will have an opportunity to watch what their own children watched and discussed, but the event will also be open to citizens of the Holderness and Plymouth communities so that we can all join together in thinking about the guinea pig status of youngsters.
The film was made a couple of years ago and is framed by one parent’s inquiry into the value of a smartphone for her young teen. Entertaining and realistic, the film helps viewers consider who is in charge, what does self-discipline look like, what does early research indicate, and what are some of the looming questions that require more data? Screenagers doesn’t have simple answers for parents, educators, or students, but it shares what the face of the issue looks like while examining social media, gaming, and digital addiction. Predominantly told from a parent’s point of view, there is discussion around possible resources to help families navigate uncharted terrain.
Kelsey agrees that the film and some of the reading that is being done this year brings up more questions than answers and states, “We are reluctant to come up with solutions without fully understanding the ecosystem and ramifications of those solutions. This is a deeply complex concern. It is unlikely that there is one simple solution and taking the academic year to explore thinking should lead us well.” Head of School Phil Peck reinforces Kelsey’s premise: “We owe it to our students and families to dwell in our concerns thoughtfully and determine a path forward. Rich outcomes will be generated with an evolutionary and critical analysis.”