When a Tech Hiatus is in Order

I’m doing this backward. I get it. I’m writing about a tech hiatus after the fact, but I’ve dug deep and realized that I am likely not alone in this. Others may benefit from my special brand of crazy. So, here goes.

I was tired.

It’s such a simple sentence, but it’s profound in meaning. I was tired of being wired. I was heading for burnout and needed an intervention. So many surface-level connections and not enough deep meaning and learning. Thankfully, I’m my own best advocate, and I realized that the person who needed to jerk the plug from the wall was the bleary-eyed brunette staring back at me in the mirror.

To be real, I couldn’t completely disengage from all things technology. I’m a technology integrationist and instructional coach by trade, and I like my paycheck. That said, I know when ancillaries need the ax. I started chopping. But first, let me explain a little of what got me to the point of being an ax-wielding techie.

Platitudes.

Probably the single biggest, growing frustration for me in the last year has been this rapid influx of social media mavens who all claim to be the next big expert in technology and learning. Book tours, keynoting engagements, and images of their airline perils as they dash across the country and world. Now don’t tar and feather me if you’re one of these people. Nothing against you, personally, but I’m tired of platitudes. A great quote made all pretty in the latest “quote cutifying” app does not an expert make. I’ve seen numerous outstanding people leave the profession under the guise of helping even more people. While this is possible, it’s not the pattern I’ve seen. Instead, I see more distance from the trenches. Less applicability and more semantic recipes spun into some sappy sweet quotable Tweet or new book tagline. Everyone trying to make a buck off of those of us still deep in the muddy sludge of the daily grind in a world that has never been more anti-education, anti-teacher, and anti-common sense. Sadly, I was both overwhelmed and underwhelmed simultaneously. So many sites, apps, ideas, and subscriptions and not one of them really made a drastic dent in student achievement. Our schools, teachers, and students are still struggling. It’s a system that needs fixing (and fancy platitudes aren’t gonna get the job done).

It made me sad.

So why do I risk ticking off a number of you? Because I freakin’ care about kids! On the daily, I see hurting families and parents who have lost touch. Kids who have never been more connected but never more unable to effectively communicate in person. I see tugging cords of “back to basics” stretching against those who stress the need for a more modern approach. More and more acronyms are thrown into educational alphabet soup. Kids needing authentic learning need PBL; kids needing behavior intervention need PBIS, giving me more reasons to drown my confusion at the local PUB (see what I did there?!) Twitter is abuzz with chatter of the Next Big Thing and the ever-changing list of what one must do to be successful. It’s crap. The prescription for this sickness isn’t the same for everyone. What troubles a set of students in rural Iowa is not likely the same for the struggles of an inner-city Californian. So why do we claim to be able to deliver inspiration without actual materialization? Show me evidence that this works. Don’t fill me with endorphins and proverbial Kumbayah. Show me. Don’t travel cross-country with your canned keynote. Show me proof that your words will make a difference. Be knee deep in it. “Mike Rowe” it and hike up your waders. Teaching is one of the dirtiest jobs out there. If you aren’t with students and teachers in a non-public speaking capacity, it’s time to get back in. I can stand up and speak about all sorts of feel-good ways to inspire today’s farmer. Does it make me a competent farmer? Ummm no. Even if I actually did farm in my recent past, farming today isn’t the same. Teaching either. Jump back in and reconnect. Talk to me when you are working with kids every day.

My Twitter feed had become a cesspool.

Don’t get me started on the political landscape of our country. Twitter has been filled with verbal vomit for the last year. All the way up to the Commander-in-Chief, we seem to think that what is typed is true. It sounds good, so it must be reliable, right? We are missing the very essence of fact-checking and using our bs radar. The rhythm of our conversations was painfully out of sync and lacking merit and heart. People throwing out ideas and global projects to get themselves on some who’s who list instead of doing it for the right reasons. Check out your Follow habits. Are your followers roughly equal to your follows? If you’re follower heavy, you need to get out there and push to make connections. Return the follow when that person may offer you insight or new perspectives. Don’t be so full of yourself that it becomes a junior high popularity contest. Are you follow heavy? Find lists of teachers in your grade level/content area. Those lists are everywhere! Heed the Twitter suggestions. Those have ended up being some of my favorite Tweeters! And don’t hesitate to weed out those who do not mesh with your purpose, personal or professional. For me, I had become driven by obligation and FOMO (Google it) instead of a desire to push forward for change in these very halls. I was in full V-Tach. Sputtering. Dying. So I pulled the plug and started cleaning my birdhouse.

Clear!

After taking the last year off from non-essential connections, I have been jolted with super-charged paddles and ready to put boots on the ground again. I love technology and learning and all things “school”. My words are my actions, once again, and I expect the same of those from whom I seek information and advice. Let’s be in this together. Truly together. I’m searching for new connections that bring me real ideas, save the pearls of untried or non-applicable wisdom. I’m over it. How about you? Let’s dig in and make our mark. I became a teacher to be a change-agent. It’s my job to ensure that my work will matter to real people long after my epitaph has been written. This blog and my tech connections will once again be a steady place to share real ideas and real struggles of the day-to-day. Join me, will you?

Every day a little better than yesterday.

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