I just returned from a week’s vacation with my family. We went to our usual spot, the family cattle ranch near Shonkin, Montana that my partner’s great, great grandfather settled as part of the Homestead Act. It’s a place where there are no televisions, no computers, and you have to hike up to the top of the mountain to get any cell signal (two bars).
For someone like me, it’s very hard to unplug that much. And I did my best (only hiked to the top of that mountain two or three, okay, three times to check my email).
I didn’t realize how much being that removed from technology would challenge me to rethink how I parent and how I do my job.
I couldn’t sit my kids down for a video when I needed a half-hour of peace. I had to talk to them and put on my hall director hat to occupy their time when the ranch’s residents were being anything but productive.
A rattlesnake came close to the house on the fourth day, and we needed to alert everyone. No emergency text messages or tweets were sent out. Just a lot of yelling. We took care of the emergency and removed the snake from the yard in a way that would make any campus crisis manager proud.
We read. Books. Not emails or websites. But the actual paper things instead of our e-readers. I do confess that for a few of the children’s books we read my kid’s exclaimed “Daddy, we have that movie.” I never knew how different 101 Dalmatians was in print from either movie version.
My partner’s brother came with his family. And the number of kids doubled. Suddenly the single rooms my kids had were doubled overnight like a campus experiencing an unplanned, yet welcome enrollment surge. Roommate conflicts were had, mediated, and re-negotiated. And had again.
We did it all without the help of any piece of technology.
I’m not arguing that we don’t need technology to do our work. I am arguing that we need to make sure that we are using it in the right way, so that we don’t lose touch with the human beings that we work with and educate.
That’s what I learned on my summer vacation.
Dr. Keith Humphrey