There is, of course, plenty of precedence for discontinuing a clinical trial in the middle (as I did when I blearily stumbled in last night from the Adirondacks and did one thing before falling into bed: deactivated my Twitter account.) It’s generally a result of “reviewing interim data.”
My interim data came about three hundred feet above Heart Lake on Sunday, where the Director of Education for the Adirondack Mountain Club, Ryan, had led me on my first snowshoe trek. I had the nearly surreal amazing luck to have his expertise all to myself, as he announced cheerfully in the dining room of the lodge that morning– “Just you and me today. Everyone else bailed.” Apparently this happens every eon or so.
And so we tromped around, crunching more than usual, Ryan told me– only an inch or two of powder over a frozen crust. We tracked: moles, squirrels, snowshoe hares, grouse, their three-toed hieroglyphics swept out by their own tails. He taught me about the heat of trees melting deep holes that then paper over with drift, called “spruce traps.” I fired off every stupid beginner hiker question I had. And munching on dried fruit and a ham sandwich over the lake, I realized:
Now, can our students live happy and fulfilling lives without learning to snowshoe? Yes. And no. An experiential, sensual awareness of nature, however it is nurtured, is something none of us can spare, and such educators as David Orr and Richard Louv are making that increasingly clear.
But this line of argument is a whole other post. For now, it suffices to consider how it casts light over the question of tech I should be using in the classroom. For every moment that I tether a child indoors to a hard drive and strip her senses down to two out of five– my own little tech spruce trap– what are we getting in return?
I had a five hour drive home from the mountains to tackle this with every ounce of cold-blooded logic I’ve got. So coming up: my thoughts on how technology may–or may not– answer the ultimate English teacher’s question: Does technology help our students become better readers and writers?
…and yeah, I’ll publish my Twitter data eventually. I’m actually hoping to make that my first stab at real information design, one of the powerful ways tech does help develop our kids’ literacy. But more on that next post.