ROXBURY, NJ – Teachers and students in the Roxbury School District will be asked to step away from technology on four days this year during what the district is calling “tech-free days.”
The goal of the initiative, in part, is to teach students how to develop enough will-power to resist the addictive urge of smartphones and computers.
“It’s not because I don’t love technology,” said Roxbury Schools Administrator Loretta Radulic at a recent Roxbury School Board meeting. “It’s really to strike a balance. We need to give students kind of unplugging time and permission to unplug, which I think is the hardest part.”
Although personal smartphone use is prohibited for students when they are at school, Chromebooks and smartboards are used daily by many teachers and students in the district. Students in grades six through 12 have their own Chromebooks that they bring home.
The goal of the tech-free days is to have both teachers and students take a breather from the bits and bytes.
“We all feel that we have to be on 24/7,” Radulic said. “We have to always be connected. We have to always be ready to answer those emails. We have to immediately see what’s happening in everybody’s lives. There has to be that moment when you can turn it off.”
Doing so, from an educational level, will require some creativity. That’s especially true for Kelly Freund, who teaches technology at the Franklin and Nixon elementary schools. How is a computer teacher supposed to teach if she or the students can’t use computers?
Freund said she plans to have students do “card games centered around technology terms and parts of the computer,” on the first tech-free day, scheduled for Oct. 16. “These card games are conducted in a team-building form to promote socialization and cooperation between students,” she said.
On subsequent tech-free days, Freund will be introducing classic board games, such as Yahtzee and Monopoly, to students. “We will be comparing tech games versus board games,” she said. “Advantages and disadvantages to both.”
Outdoor activities, such as scavenger hunts, are also on Freund’s agenda, she noted.
Roxbury School District Spokeswoman Ann Rhodes noted that research is linking smartphone use to depression in young people. Although the district cannot control what students do while away from school, the hope is that the tech-free days will help them realize there is a down-side to too much gadget use.
Said Radulic, “When you talk about students who have struggled with social media, they need to know that it’s OK to not look at it, to not react to any negativity that might be out there. Some people are kind. Some people are not so kind. But you need to be able to have strength in yourself to decide what you want to listen to and what you don’t want to listen to.”