An Open Letter to All Students

Everybody at the speed of light tends to become a nobody.  – Marshall McLuhan

An Open Letter to All Students,

Look up! That’s right, put your smart phones away, look me in the eye and listen to me for just a few minutes. Seriously, I mean it; your future may depend on it!

Don’t worry. I am not going to tell you how you should NOT use your mobile device or judge you. I have taught, observed and spoken with enough of you about digital technology over the years to know that the vast majority of you are decent, respectful human beings who, like me, make mistakes from time to time.

I know that your time is precious and that there are a gazillion things you could be doing with your mobile device right now, like chatting and playing online games with your friends via at least a dozen trendy social media and gaming apps; or capturing cool photos and videos of one another, tagging and uploading them to the internet.

You might even be texting, blogging or video-calling about how much you love your new sneakers or the amazing adventures you have planned for the summer. These are all valid and wonderful ways to celebrate the miracle of digital technology. You should keep doing these things!

balance-224644_640

I just want a minute or two to share three suggestions that may enhance your valuable time and perhaps alter, for the better, your life’s path.

  1. Always be positive. Whether you are online or offline, in person or in cyberspace, strive always to be upbeat, kind and gentle with yourself and others. Use digital technology and social media to stay in touch with family and friends and create a positive digital identity that you, your parents and teachers would be proud of. Build one another up by sharing all the incredibly wonderful things you are already doing in your school communities (charity fundraisers, arts, science and technology fairs, community partnerships etc.). If you are always positive and THINK before you speak or post online – this will go a long way in helping you to construct a positive persona and digital footprint, thereby avoiding potentially embarrassing, hurtful and perhaps tragic situations.
  2. Strive for balance in everything you do. It doesn’t take a genius to know that spending too much time doing anything: sleeping, listening to music, playing video games, or watching videos, is likely not good for your physical, emotional, intellectual or social well-being. Take some time every day to go outside and walk, run, or cycle in the natural environment. This would be a perfect chance to exercise your body and clear your mind, while celebrating, appreciating and enjoying nature.
  3. Be thankful. Make time to slow down, meditate, reflect on and be thankful for all the gifts in your life: family, friends, shelter, food, health and the natural environment. By slowing down, being appreciative and thankful for the people and possessions in your life- you will gain a deeper understanding and respect for them.

Remember, all it takes is one thoughtless moment: sending an angry text, posting or sharing online an inappropriate or embarrassing comment, photo or video of yourself or others – to derail your dreams. Ironically, by slowing down, thinking, being thankful and periodically looking up from your digital gadgets – you may just find a sense of peace, balance and new appreciation for life and all its wonders.

Photo Credit: jesslef


Note to Media Orgs: Make My ‘Blanking’ Day

BREAKING NEWS . . .

Canada_Day_Tomb_of_the_Unknown_Soldier

Life took a huge chunk of my childhood innocence when (__________) shot president John F. Kennedy and time and the world seemed to stop on November 22, 1963. And blank’s face, name and history were instantly plastered on countless newspapers, glossy magazine covers and featured in television programs around the world.

As a young man driving home from a pick-up hockey game, just after midnight on December 8, 1980 – the radio blared the unbelievable news (__________) killed John Lennon and, for a time, the music and a little piece of my soul died. And blank’s face, name and history were instantly plastered on countless newspapers, glossy magazine covers and featured in television programs around the world.

And on December 6, 1989 I was horrified when terror hit home when (__________) murdered 14 women in cold blood at École Polytechnique at the University of Montreal. And blank’s face, name and history were instantly plastered on countless newspapers, glossy magazine covers and featured in television programs around the world.

Just when I thought my soul and pysche could not bear the shock and horror of another bloody, tragic tale, in the span of a few days, in another flash of insanity (__________) and (__________) brutally killed Canadian soldiers Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo.

And blanks’ faces, names and histories were INSTANTLY and FOREVER posted on social media websites, plastered on newspapers, glossy magazine covers and featured in television programs around the world.

Photo Credit: commons.wikimedia.org


Twitter & Facebook: A Self-Imposed Fast

A little more than a couple of weeks into my self-inflicted forty-day Lenten social media fast and I find myself reeling from the fallout. I have even stooped so low as to changing the email alert on my mobile device to the sound of a chirping bird’s tweet – just to soften the psychological blow and separation anxiety of temporarily withdrawing from Twitter.

One could try to rationalize, by channeling and modifying the famous axioms of existentialists like Descartes, tweet ergo sum (I tweet therefore I am) or Socrates, ‘the unexamined online update is not worth posting’. Or perhaps Einstein would be more appropriate; ‘a person who never made a mistake never tried SnapChat’.

A person who never made a mistake never tried SnapChat.

Make no mistake, information dependency, especially new information, however trivial, is an addiction. From both a psychological and behavioral perspective I can honestly state that I am addicted to the constant need for new information and the need to share that information (photos, videos, links to articles) with as wide an audience as possible.

Image

How do I know this you may ask? One does not spend a good part of the past six years investing time in thousands of twitter posts and Facebook updates without feeling the effects of suddenly going cold turkey. I hunger for the immediacy of social networking and the convenience of being ahead of the curve on breaking news. But most of all I miss being able to share via my social media feeds – inspirational content like uplifting videos, unique photos or inspiring quotes.

To a lesser degree – I will miss the narcissistic feeling of having my posts liked and shared. Yes, I too have savored the sweet siren call of the odd ‘selfie’. I do not deny that these are also motivating factors for my social media obsession. What gives me some comfort, though, is that I and my digital dependency demons are not alone, that millions of people across our global village are just as digitally dependent, or more so, than I am.

Choosing to temporarily fast from Facebook and Twitter has opened my eyes to how truly ubiquitous and embedded these forces are into the social fabric of our modern culture. Unless I purposely choose to shun all electronic media – this dynamic social duo shows up in numerous forms such as social media feeds on news-related web sites, television news and entertainment programs and automated programs. Ironically, new McLuhansghost blogs , when published, are automatically launched to my Twitter feed as is my Ontario Educator’s Daily, the daily twitter aggregator that originates from the Paper.li self-publishing site.

Blessing in Disguise

As dire to some as my time out from Twitter & Facebook may seem – I have managed to fill some of the void by: reading more electronic and hard copy daily newspapers and books, enjoying the beauty of the natural environment through peaceful walks, as this blog indicates – writing more and spending more face-to-face time with real people. I have also had more time to explore the features and communities on Google+.

As unsettling as it has been – abstaining from daily Twitter posts and Facebook updates during this brief hiatus has restored some serenity and balance to my life, forcing me to refocus and gain perspective on what really matters. So far, my social media fast has been a blessing – allowing distance and perspective on current provincial and national political and social issues that could have increased the possibility of a spontaneous, regrettable knee-jerk rant on Twitter or Facebook.

Some Final Thoughts

Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become txts. Watch your txts; they become tweets. Watch your tweets; they become Facebook posts. Watch your Facebook posts; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

PS – feel free to retweet this post on Twitter. I promise I will try to get to it . . . eventually.

Photo Credit: I-am-bored.com


Technology in the Classroom


Waterloo Region Record
Mar 6 2014