Walking to my classroom I casually looked into the classrooms as I passed.  I was struck by the number of teachers on their computers.  My observation occurred during the first 10 minutes of class, so they were probably doing attendance or something school-related.  Yet, I started to reflect on how technologically connected we are, especially as teachers.  I receive at least 25 emails to my school email.  I take attendance and enter grades on-line.  I check district and school announcements and retrieve forms from on-line (SharePoint).  All my curriculum is saved electronically.  It’s as if everything in terms of support and administration is computer-based.  Then, when I go home I check my personal email (35+), blog, check Facebook, on-line bank, and read, read, read various on-line articles.

I started wondering about whether technology immersion is a good thing or a bad thing.  I started examining my use of technology and asking questions:

  • How many hours do we spend in a front of our computers during school time? 
  • What % of our time on the computer directly relates to teaching and improving student achievement?
  • What % of our time on the computer is productive (school-related)?

Here’s a breakdown of the time I tracked in a recent planning period:

  • Checked new emails (15 approx.)  – 10 minutes
  • Responded to 3 emails –  10 minutes
  • Checked the latest news (ummm… education news) – 5 minutes
  • Cleaned off my desk – 2 minutes
  • Checked incoming, pop up email – 1 minute
  • Returned to cleaning off my desk – 1 minute
  • Started to enter grades in on the computer, but was interrupted by another incoming message – 2 minutes
  • Resumed entering grades – 10 minutes
  • Interrupted by a teacher asking if I could attend an IEP meeting.  I checked my calendar (on my computer) – 3 minutes
  • Entered meeting time/date into Outlook calendar – 1 minute
  • Finished entering grades – 3 minutes (running time 48 minutes)
  • Started to enter attendance on paper forms and computer -4 minutes+

I was struck by two important things.  One, I was on my computer almost the entire time.  Second, I didn’t do any planning.  Zippo.  Zero.  This last point is what frustrates me the most.  I felt like I was just doing “stuff.”

It was experiment time.  For my next planning period I was going to do things different.  I made a to-do list (one of my favorite things) and determined how much time I need on the computer.  I allotted myself 5 minutes to email, forcing me to quickly prioritize important email and simply delete irrelevant email.  Next, I eliminated electronic distractions.  I closed Outlook, so I wouldn’t get side tracked by those annoying pop-up email notifiers.  Also, I closed my browser, avoiding any temptations to read the latest news.  Giving myself only 25 minutes, I lesson planned.  I brought up my Word template and the creative juices flowed.  It was brilliant.  After those 25 minutes I turned off the computer.  I sat in the corner of my classroom  away from all things electronic and just brainstormed and planned the remaining curriculum for my semester class.  I didn’t finish, but I accomplished a lot more than my previous planning period.

What’s your thoughts?.  Do you think technology is interfering with teaching?  Do you believe the opposite?  What are you tricks/strategies in dealing with technology overload?