This morning I awoke early, spent time looking at my electronic tablet while getting ready, connected my smartphone to my vehicle’s audio system, drove to the airport and showed the parking attendant the reservation on my smartphone, checked my baggage using the boarding pass on my smartphone, went through the security checkpoint with my electronic boarding pass, boarded the plane with a quick scan of my smartphone’s airline app, and read emails until time to switch my smartphone to airplane mode.
And I wonder why I’m tired, stressed, and distracted! Granted this is not a typical morning for me; however, almost every day begins with reaching for my tablet or phone and ends with putting them away before crawling into bed exhausted. Our world has become so connected and attached to powerful electronic devices that we are constantly technologically distracted everywhere we go. Even the security checkpoint officer was briefly distracted this morning when she stole a quick glance at her smartphone.
What does this have to do with teaching preschoolers and elementary kids at church? Tony Reinke in his book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You says, “We check our smartphones about 81,500 times each year, or once every 4.3 minutes of our waking lives.” That could mean you’re checking your phone almost 14 times during the one hour you’re teaching kids at church.
So, what can you and I do to be less distracted by technology as we attempt to teach kids the Bible? Here are five steps that can apply not only to the classroom setting, but to work and home as well:
- Accept the reality and limits of technology. Technology is here to stay and will continue to be more invasive. However, it can never make us omnipresent. The sooner we learn that, the more engaged with real people in real time we will become. Smartphones and tablets will never take the place of one-on-one, biblical conversations with kids.
- Evaluate your personal tech usage. Free tools exist that can help you know if you are too connected digitally. Search online for the Internet Addiction Test (IAT), the Facebook Intensity Quiz, and other assessments. Make changes based on your evaluation.
- Establish “No Tech” zones. Place your smartphone out of reach in the classroom. Know where it is for emergencies, but otherwise “forget” where it is. Say to yourself and your co-teachers, “I don’t check my phone in the classroom.” Just making this statement reinforces your resolve.
- Use the “do not disturb” feature on your phone. If you don’t know how, ask a first grader to show you. Basically this feature allows calls and texts only from specific contacts, such as your spouse or children’s pastor.
- Enlist a tech accountability partner. This could be your co-teacher. Give her permission to give you “the look” or some other signal when you start pulling your phone out of your pocket. I teach every week with a Millennial, and she NEVER uses her smartphone in the classroom. I could learn from her example.
A few months ago I was sitting in the blocks area of a Bible study classroom, and a pre-kindergartener was trying to explain something to me. He felt compelled to say, “Hey!” to get my attention. I almost missed a Bible-teaching moment because I was looking at a text. That shameful incident helped me make some changes. What about you? What changes will you make this week?
Well, it’s time to put this blog post to bed and send to the editor. For the price of a fast-food meal I could connect to WiFi while flying 38,000 feet in the air and email what I just wrote, but I’m too frugal for that . . . or distracted.
Landry Holmes is the Manager of Lifeway Kids Ministry Publishing, Nashville, TN. A graduate of Howard Payne University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Landry served on church staffs before coming to Lifeway. He is a church leader, writer, workshop facilitator, and publisher. Landry also teaches children at his church in Middle Tennessee. He and his wife Janetta are the grandparents of two adorable grandbabies.