‘No-Tech Tuesday’ Promotes Human Connection at Hyde-Woodstock

In a move rarely seen since the high-tech world of cell phones, texting, email, and broadband Internet hit classrooms across the country, one school in Connecticut announced today it will hold a four-day moratorium on the use of technology every Tuesday in September.

The idea for the moratorium, dubbed “No-Tech Tuesdays” by the head of school at Hyde School in Woodstock, Connecticut, materialized after a campus-wide meeting where students and faculty discussed the strengths and obstacles technology provides to those who use it. One common pitfall expressed was the decline of face-to-face interaction as a result of choosing electronic messaging over any other form of communication. Suspending use of technology on “No-Tech Tuesdays” is one way the school hopes to encourage face-to-face connectedness and sharpen social skills.

“So much has changed in a very short time with regard to personal use of technology,” says Hyde Head of School Laura Gauld. “In the past 10 years, we’ve seen a surge of technology, ultra connectivity…anyplace, anywhere…and while most of its effects have been positive, some are not so positive.”

Gauld and her colleagues, who teach teenagers between the ages of 14 and 19, see firsthand how technology has also paradoxically resulted in isolation for many young people, often turning them away from meaningful relationships with their families, friends, and peers. And, while many schools ban the use of cell phones and text messaging, including Hyde School, Gauld contends that those who think the battle to control it should be fought only by setting limits are swimming against the tide.

As the demand for technology rises and changes faster than pressing the ‘send’ button, more and more studies are being conducted that point to it as a major distraction in today’s classrooms.

The Pew ‘Internet and American Life Project’ offers at least one research result in this area:

>> The average teenager sends about 50 text messages a day while at school, despite the fact that most schools ban text messaging.

Yet, technology is here to stay.

“We’re talking about and tackling this as a community,” says Gauld. “It takes a high level of awareness and fortitude to recognize the common traps we all can fall into with regard to the use of technology because it is a tool that is helpful and fun, to step back and be able to identify what isn’t so great about it-and then do something about it.”

The Hyde Organization is a network of public and private college preparatory schools in Maine, Connecticut, New York and Washington DC focused on character and leadership development. Gauld sees the Woodstock school’s recent discussion about the use of technology as a “perfect teaching opportunity” to inspire principles and values in students-and the adults who teach them-by taking an honest look at how they handle this tool.

“As with everything else, our relationship with technology is related to our character, principles and the choices we make,” says Gauld. “We all find ways to bend the rules, but if we understand how things are directly impacting our lives-negatively and positively-we’re more likely to do the thing that brings us out on top.”

At the end of the month, the school will meet to assess the results of the ‘No-tech Tuesday’ experiment.