Estimated reading time: 4-5 minutes
SANDY — As teachers and students look for ways to balance technology use in the classroom, one Sandy school is kicking off the week with a break by going back to basics with Mindful Monday.
“Our school community council wanted to find a way to not limit the use of technology, but to focus on the proper use of technology,” said Doug Graham, principal of Indian Hills Middle School. “So we came up with this idea — let’s come up with one day a week and take a break from it, give ourselves a break.”
Graham said Mindful Mondays comes as a response to the challenges students face in the classroom after the COVID-19 pandemic, when online learning has become a daily necessity. Now, every Monday, Indian Hills students put away their cell phones and Chromebooks and teachers look for opportunities to reduce the use of technology in their classrooms.
For some, it’s a return to the basics of using pencils and paper, workbooks and group discussions.
“We really need to start pulling back and doing much more of a blended learning model again,” Graham said.
In Katie Buffington’s 7th grade language arts class, Mindful Monday began with correcting sentences the “old” way—on paper and pencil, without relying on Microsoft Word to do it.
“I’m part of the iPad generation. I cannot imagine what this generation is like; they’re iPad to the max,” Buffington said. “So it’s just part of their everyday life — they’re not really exposed or used to not having these immediate technological reactions.”
Buffington said that for some students, taking a break from technology is a struggle, making Mindful Mondays even more critical to their educational development.
“Our brains remember what we write down much better than what we write or read,” Buffington said. “So I try to get them to see and listen and then write as much as possible on Monday, and then we implement them later in the week with either technology or both or whatever works best.”
Students in Buffington’s class say they miss using their Chromebooks but love Mindful Monday.
“I kind of like Mindful Monday because it helps me learn more,” said Darian Gutierrez, a 7th grader at Indian Hills Middle School. “But I also like using my computer because it helps me catch up faster than typing.”
“Last year all we did was computer, canvas, canvas, canvas, and now we’ve actually gone back to paper, we’ve gone back to being able to write, we’ve improved our handwriting,” said Grade 7 student Madeleine To. “I think it helps our brains develop more.”
Thaut said students at Indian Hills Middle School are more engaged during lunch thanks to Mindful Mondays.
“On Mindful Monday, you can sit down, have lunch, actually talk to them — say, ‘Hi, how was your weekend?’ What did you do?’ instead of texting them,” Thaut said.
Graham said he also noticed more interaction with students in the lunchroom on Mondays, which was another goal for Mindful Mondays.
“We just want the kids to interact, like in the cafeteria. One day a week it’s nice to go in there and see the face-to-face interaction and the kids come out and play again. And, you know, within a 20-minute period, it might not be as dramatic an effect, it just helps them understand that, hey, this is important and you need to pay attention to the time you’re on your phones.” he said.
There are no set rules for Mindful Monday teachers, just a hope that they will reduce their use of technology in their classrooms and set a good example for their students.
“At the end of the day, you want students to have the best experience possible, and sometimes that’s with the technology in their hands and sometimes it’s not,” Graham said. “And we just really need to get back to that balance.”
For Buffington, Mindful Monday is an important reminder that there are many ways to educate, and technology is just one of them.
“I think the world we live in now is all about balance,” Buffington said. “We’ve had nothing but screens in front of us for two straight years for education and everything, so it’s going to be tough and it’s going to be an uphill battle, but I think in the end having that balance pays off educationally and personally. “