Mr. Miles…Unplugged

Hi, my name is Luke Miles and I am tech-junkie.  I know the first step is admitting that I have a problem.  I have a problem, and I am not the only one who noticed.  Oh wait…one of my students told me the first step was denial.  I don’t know have a problem.  And the second step is admittance.  I do have a problem, and I am not the only one who noticed.

My fiance once asked what I did last night while she was at work.  I replied, “I watched Steve Jobs unveil the new iPad.”  Then she asked the question I knew was coming, “How long?”  I regrettably admitted, “2 and half hours…give or take.” That’s when she knew my problem was bad…

Now being a tech-aholic is not always a bad thing.  In fact, it has opened up many doors/opportunities for me.  Knowing new and emerging technologies has really helped me to enhance my classroom.  Many of my students have experienced new ways to learn using web 2.0 technologies–something that many of them have never experienced before in a classroom.  We are running twitter accounts, making music videos, creating glogs and web maps, using backchannels during debates, creating voicethreads, and creating websites.

However, it got bad…I mean it got real bad…like really bad…

I was subscribing to RSS Feeds faster than Usain Bolt runs the 40.  I was tweeting in #edchats more rapidly than a speeding bullet.  I think I have lost many of my non-educational followers. My blackberry really had become a crackberry addiction.  I checked my facebook and my fantasy baseball team before going to bed instead of reading.  I mean it was really bad.  Even my students started noticing that I wasn’t actually that cool because I was a little geeky.

So I decided to make a change.  I teach at year around school so every nine weeks we get 3 weeks off.  I decided that during my 3 weeks off (more commonly known in the year-around world as track out) I would unplug from cyberspace.  I signed off from everything.  My fiance reset my passwords to twitter, facebook, nings, my blog etc.  I turned over my computer to my fiance unless I absolutely needed it (I work at a church so I would need it from time to time). I removed my RSS feeds from my mailbox.  They were still there.  I just couldn’t see them.   You know…outta sight, outta mind.  I went to Verizon and switched my phone to a basic flip phone with only texting.  I became completely unplugged.

During this time, I learned a lot about myself and decided to compile a list and share it with all of you guys.  Here it goes…

1) I am really(^7) addicted to social networking (especially twitter) and the blogosphere.  I thought I read news websites, visited CNN.com and my local news affiliate, but OMG…I had missed so much.  I spent so much time receiving the majority of my news in 140 characters or less that I was not even aware of the details/plot twists associated with each news story that twitter failed to include.  Even in the educational realm, I had spent so much time on twitter that I missed a lot of the big picture news in education.  By being plugged in, I was actually becoming more and more unplugged even though I thought I was plugging in and I didn’t realize it until I decided to pull the plug.  Weird…huh?

2) I am much more productive when I am not surfing the web, reading articles/blogs, tweeting, facebooking, or checking fantasy baseball on ESPN.  Not to say that what I do on twitter and the articles/blogs I read are not productive, engaging, or necessary for my job, but I got a few more things done around the house.  I tended the natural areas in my yard, I painted 2 rooms (started a 3rd), and much more.  I was able to finish strong on my second job before the new person stepped in full time. (I worked a church part time as a youth minister while they searched for a full time minister).

3) I found out that I enjoy walking my dog at local parks with my fiance…yeah yeah yeah…I know…sappy, but it’s true.  I never really took longish walks before.  Normally it was a quick stroll around the block and then head back home.

4) My fiance and I nailed down some final details about our upcoming wedding.  Well she nailed down some final details and I just made sure I liked it.

5) I read 3 complete books.  Now this may blow your mind a bit, but I have not read a complete book in quite some time.  Maybe 8-12 months…maybe longer.  However, during this 3 week unplugged period I read The Lightning Thief, A Whole New Mind, and The Lost Symbol.

I think it goes without saying we all need to take a few days off from time to time.  It is not good for our sanity to be so engrossed in an issue than it dominates/controls our lives.  It’s hard to justify reasons to unplug yourself from the educational world because it is such a great cause, but there are things in each of our lives that are more important.

And if I have learned anything since becoming a teacher, it’s that the problems with schools/education will not disappear over night.  They will be right there waiting for when you get back.  In fact, more often than not new problems will arise.  Schools and students need great teachers, but great teachers who are mentally and emotionally drained are worth nothing.  So take a second, wind down, grab Diet Coke, watch a few episodes of House, and read a book…that may be my method of relaxation.  In the end, you will realize how much you needed that break.  I feel re-charged, ready to finish out the year, and tackle any problem in front of me, and I know you will be too.  Enjoy!

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