Last Friday, Maplewood high school freshmen gathered to enjoy some breakfast and watch the screening of our Panthers Unplugged mini-documentary. Beforehand, however, I asked them to reflect on their experience and offer advice to teachers and students around the country who may be considering a similar challenge.
Their answers confirmed what I had already suspected: that all students (and adults, for that matter) should unplug from technology periodically.
If you’re a teacher looking to organize an unplugged challenge next year, or simply want to see how teenagers felt about giving up their cell phones for 24 hours, check out my students’ responses below:
What did you learn from the Panthers Unplugged experience?
“I learned that I can go 24 hours without my cell phone.”
“I learned that everything doesn’t have to be about technology. There are more things to do in life like read books and go outside with friends.”
“You focus better without technology.”
“You can communicate with friends and family more easily.”
“I learned that I don’t need my cell phone to survive.”
“Without your phone, you can experience a lot more.”
“Life can be more relaxing without my phone. You don’t have to worry about who’s texting you. You have the whole day to yourself.”
“I learned that some people can live without their phone and some people can’t.”
“Being away from your phone let me do other things that I normally wouldn’t do.”
“I don’t need my phone to have fun.”
“I learned that our phones have taken over our lives.”
Why do you think should other students (at Maplewood and around the country) should participate in a similar challenge?
“They will learn a lot about themselves by doing it.”
“To find out what your other interests are.”
“If different schools come together and give their electronics away, it could become a tradition.”
“To see if they can get through a day without it.”
“I think it would be good for everybody to try unplugging at least once.”
“To see how much easier it is to concentrate without your phone.”
“To have better communication skills with others.”
“Because it’s a great challenge to participate in. It helps you interact more with your peers and family.”
“To see if you have an addiction to your phone.”
“It will give them an opportunity to see that they don’t need a phone to function.”
“Without a phone, you can get a lot of stuff done.”
“It will benefit them and show them that technology is not needed.”
“To see that you don’t need a phone to have fun with friends and family.”
“I think people should try it because you never know what you can find out about yourself.”
Would you do it again next year? Why, or why not?
“Yes, because it was certainly relaxing and kept my mind off of technology.”
“Yes, because it has taught me a lot of lessons.”
“Yes, because I would like to get more people to do it with me.”
“Yes. When I did it I thought it was going to be hard, but I started hanging with my family, and it wasn’t so bad.”
“Yes, because my mom thinks I focus more without a phone, and I get more work done.”
“Yes, because I got more sleep when I did the challenge.”
“Yes, because it allowed me to see that I can do other things than be on the phone.”
“I would because it made me realize that the world is a much bigger place without your phone all the time.”
“Yes, because I feel like it was very beneficial experience.”
“Yes, because it helped me focus a little more and be active.”
“Yes, because I got to sleep earlier.”
“No, because it was hard without my phone.”
What could Mr. Amato & Mrs. Cook do differently next year to make the experience better?
“Ask others beside freshmen to unplug.”
“Maybe try a week.”
“Make it longer.”
“I think you should do it for two days or longer so it can really be a challenge.”
“I think it was cool and fun the way it was. Everyone had positive things to say about it.”
“Try to set it for a longer time and see how people react to it.”
“They could probably extend the time but it was kind of hard to contact my friends and family when I wasn’t around them.”
“Extend it to 48 hours.”
“Make it longer, like 3 days.”
How did the unplugged challenge cause you to change your cell phone & social media habits this year, if at all?
“It made me change my habits because I got to spend more time with my family, especially my little sister. I did more homework, and I just had more fun. I wasn’t even worried about my phone.”
“Honestly, it didn’t change much. I am still close with it.”
“I realized that there is nothing but trouble on social media, and that everyone sees everything that you do, which isn’t good.”
“I don’t feel the need to be on my phone all the time because I have work to do.”
“None, because the same night I got my phone back, I stayed up until 1:00 in the morning.”
“I don’t go on social media as much. I try to go outside.”
“It helped me put my phone down and spend my time wisely.”
“Not at all.”
“It changed me a little bit. Sometimes I put my phone away and do other things.”
“I’ve been way more active and I’ve also been on my phone less than normal.”
Based on their feedback, I plan to organize another unplugged event next year. If you are a teacher of middle or high school students, I’d love for you to join us!