Are social educational apps and technology placing too many expectations on teacher’s personal lives? Let me start this article by saying that I am on board the technology train. I fully embrace technology and it is certainly a passion of mine. There has been a dramatic shift in our society about connecting with people without the boundaries of time and space. Even as a junior teacher, I believe that it is never too early to teach technology skills such as emailing. Technology creates excellent connections. Connections between students, families and other teachers has never been so easy to create. So why does it feel so challenging and does it place too many expectations on teachers personal lives?
“Connect! Anytime, anywhere!”
I have attended professional seminars and read information, like we all have, about the ease of technology. It is presented as easy to connect with students. Easy to add data at the click of a button. Easy to share dates, learning and times with families. Great. Love it. During school hours. The issue that I have is that technological connections after certain hours are almost an invasion of my personal and private time. Take Edmodo for example. Amazing and a highly beneficial app. But it is a full time app. When I taught seniors, I would be getting questions, assignment posts, notifications etc. My Ipad would be pinging and dinging. I would be out to dinner and a question pops up. I would be in the middle of a TV show and a discussion between kids starts. But it still felt like a catch 22. I loved that fact that the kids embraced it, used it and did some amazing things that I didn’t expect. Parents could shot me quick questions if needed. But again, it was still going on at 9:00 and 10:00 at night.
“The click of a button access to teachers”
Programs and apps are presented as “at the click of a button”. Great for parent and student communication. Great for relationship building and connections. They are presented as wonderful because they allow you to do things anytime and anywhere. But let’s stop and really think about that in reality. At the click of a button, parents can shoot you a question late at night. I have heard many stories of how parents have emailed teachers late at night and expected a response immediately. And then emailed to ask why the response wasn’t prompt. Students can catch you again, at home in your own time. Time that you need to collapse after the long working day. Time that you need to relax, unwind and feel like you have a second to yourself. Time when you can see your family and friends. Time to refresh and renew so the kids get the best of you the next day. So is the “click of a button” really what teachers need or want?
The “I will just do it tonight” syndrome
The other side of the coin is that you put off doing blog posts, assignment posts, quizzes, data entry, responses, and dates during the school day. Why? Because you can. Because the day is so busy that you haven’t had time. Because there are so many other things that need your attention and physical presence. Because on your priority list it IS something that you can do later. So what do you do? You do it when you get home. You sit on the iPad while watching TV. You read while eating dinner. You quickly check emails before you go to bed. Why? Because you can’t sleep until its done. You sleep better knowing that the day is finalised.
So the major technological selling points also have a dark side. A hidden side that can suck the life out of you, your personal life and your personal time. So what can teachers do to balance building great technological connections and personal lives?
1. Turn off notifications after a certain time. A time that you select. I had to let go and accept that it won’t matter if I get to it the following morning
2. Be clear to parents that you are accessible within reasonable hours. Remind parents gently that you need a break from work too.
3. Check emails, apps etc. in the morning and at early in the night
4. Try and do as many things as you can at work
5. Prioritise what is highly beneficial
Teaching has changed dramatically in the last ten years. Teachers are now more accessible than ever. Being a teacher means building connections and part of that connection is being flexible in how accessible you are. This is important and valuable. However, be careful of the hidden traps that can suck you into working too many hours. Switch off some technology and give yourself a hard earned rest. The kids will thank you in the long run. Your family will thank you in the long run and you will thank yourself too.