A quick observation:
Invariably, one of the concerns that educators raise when going down the social technology conversation any length is the “balance” issue, as in we need to maintain a balance between our online and offline lives. The concern is usually raised in the context of too many kids are out of balance, spending too much time on the computer and not enough time engaged in skinning their knees or having face to face interactions with real live humans that will let them practice the important social skills that they are in the process of losing. As a parent, I hear that. Many are usually shocked to find out that I limit the amount of time my kids can just surf around on the Web and play games or update their Facebook pages or watch silly YouTube videos. They’re 10 and 12, and at that age, and especially now that the weather is warming up, I want them out and about, shooting hoops, jumping on the trampoline, riding their bikes, building forts, helping to mulch the garden (fat chance) and having “fun”. That’s our parenting choice, and I’m in no way saying it’s the only choice or the right choice for every kid or whatever. It’s just the way we’ve decided to approach it. They get their share of time online, and they can negotiate for more if they are doing something creative or productive. But by and large that’s what “balance” is for them.
And let me just say that I struggle with the balance thing in my own life as well. I go through phases where I definitely spend too much time on the computer. (Just ask my wife.) I’m currently in one of my stepping back modes, not playing as much on Twitter, trying to spend more time reading and writing deeply instead of in 140 characters (as evidenced by the recent spurt of posts here.) Plus I’ve got basketball practices and games to drive kids to, grass to cut, etc. Sometimes, balance is forced upon you.
But here is the thing: the reality is that most of those folks who are concerned about kids needing balance are out of balance themselves, just in the opposite way. They’re not online enough, not reading, writing, participating, connecting and creating in these spaces as much as they need to be to fully understand the implications of these technologies for their own learning and for the kids in their classrooms. Lately, when I’ve been responding to people about the “balance” question, I go with “well, actually, you’re out of balance too, you know.” I get this kind of stunned silence. What a concept.
I’m all for balance, but if we’re going to make that a “concern” around technology use, let’s be willing to admit that it goes both ways.