Off to camp?

I was listening to the CBC Metro Morning radio broadcast one day last week on the way into work. The topic that morning was ‘Camping & Technology’ – that is, sending kids of to summer camp for a week or two. Although I did not hear the entire show, it seemed that the discussion centred around a couple of main points.

  1. Should the kids have technology at a camp session?
  2. Needs/expectations: parent & student/child perspectives

I found the discussion quite interesting. The camp facilitators were focused on delivering face to face activities, which in turn fostered relationship & team building and problem solving skills among the children. There is no argument from me regarding the need for this.  The camp facilitators had taken the stance – keep the technology (cell phones, smart phones, mp3 players (iPods etc.)) out of the camp environment. On the other side of the coin, a number of the parents had expressed concern about this because removing the technology also removed their ability to communicate with their child/children – something they valued and wanted. Now, hold this thought.

In a sense, there are two polarized approaches here: keep the technology out because we don’t want to deal with it or allow it. This example of the  polarization around the use of handheld technology is really no different than the situation in many schools around the globe: keep it out because we don’t want to deal with it v.s. bring it, and use it as part of the learning process where appropriate.

It seems to me that the answer is not in maintaining these polarized view points, but looking at things from a Digital Citizenship and Character Development point of view. Embrace the challenge of finding that middle ground that allows the use of technology in suitable ways, whether it is camp or school. The Digital Citizenship approach allows for some discussion around appropriate use, meaning context and timing etc.

Back to the camp debate – From my point of view, the ‘solution’ seems obvious. Allow the students to bring the technology and have that digital citizenship discussion around appropriate use and expectations for the camp environment. A child should be able to:

  • have a great camp experience which includes the F2F focus
  • maintain contract with their parents at certain times of the day (not in an interruptive manner)
  • share the experience online with family and friends

I hope a useful compromise is achieved. Happy camping.

~ Mark