Tech-Free Assignment Challenges Students

The idea of going without technology for an entire day was unfathomable to juniors in Dr. Mick Mominee's religion class. However, students were challenged to do just that as part of an assignment connected with Pope Francis' encyclical.

"We tied the unit to Laudato Si, where Pope Francis challenges the world to be stewards of the environment and to consider how technology helps us connect to one another and how it may isolate us," Mominee explained. "The previous unit was about developing power with others and growing in solidarity with others, God and our selves. We tied these themes together and asked students to evaluate their technology usage in light, how it connected them to each other and God, and how it may disconnect them from themselves, God and each other.

"The overall goal is critical reflection on usage and a movement to more love-centered actions helping to promote social justice," Mominee continued.

Mominee worked with Marianist PULSE volunteer Dominic Sanfilippo on the unit. Together, they challenged juniors to be without their cell phones, computers, and other communicative technology for one day. 

"Prior to this assignment, I was really dreading going without my phone for 24 hours, and I thought that it would be a struggle," Jillian Baker '18 reflected.

Aryana Sutton '18 agreed, "Before I completed the assignment, I thought that it was going to be very challenging and that I would often find myself bored with nothing to do."

The students learned though, going tech-free wasn't as challenging as they first thought.

"During my day, I had lifeguard classes, so that took up most of the time," Olivia Boch '18 noted. "Then I did homework that didn't involve my Chromebook. I also got to catch up on the book I had been reading."

Sutton said, "During my tech-free day, I actually did a lot of things like going to the gym with my mom, going to the driving range with my dad, and going out to lunch and hanging out with some friends."

"During the day, I went canoeing with my family, and then played some board games at night, to help pass the time," Baker said. "I feel like it was really nice to get in touch with nature, and spend time with my family and friends without the distraction of my phone, and I really enjoyed doing this project."

Mominee added, "I think the students learned that when they look up, they see, experience, and grow in unexpected ways. It was not as bad as they expected and I think they will be more reflective users."

After completing the assignment, students were asked to create an advertisement promoting the messages of the unit, post it, and share feedback with their classmates.

"I drew one picture of a girl sitting on a bench and experiencing all of the beautiful miracles that were happening all around her, and another picture of a girl sitting on her phone, missing all of the wonderful things happening around her," Baker said. "In the technology free picture, all of the color is in the world around her, because that is what she is paying attention to. In the technology use picture, the background is black and white, and only her phone is in color because that is what she is focusing on. I think that this reflects on my experience, because during my technology refrain, I realized how much we actually miss out on when we spend so much time looking down at our phones."

Sutton, who worked with Baker on the artwork, said, "This project was portraying how much of life you can actually miss when you spend so much time on technology and how you should put it down once in a while to take in the beauty of life and the loving people around you." 

Boch added, "I wrote a poem about some of the lessons covered during the unit. I decided to focus on how people today are really addicted to their phones/technology, and how it can cause them to miss something important around them. It emphasizes that technology can be like a drug; but many people don't see it like that. While substance abuse is a serious problem, there are also issues with being over-connected to the world through phones. It can change relationships, even affect how you interact with other people."

"I believe their final assessment project helps them to actively work for change in their communities," Mominee reflected. "Much like in the capstone project, we are asking them to take what they learned and do something with it, to make change in their world. The goal is to use the student's experiences as the starting point, taking them to the concepts, and then hoping that they embrace these concepts to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually."

Posted May 4, 2017