'Reclaiming Conversation’ at EDUCAUSE

Why #EDU15 attendees would rather go naked than go device free.

October 28, 2015

In my alternate reality, I have assigned Sherry Turkle’s staggeringly important book Reclaiming Conversation to everyone attending the EDUCAUSE 2015 Annual Conference.

That would be 7,000 plus educational technology professionals actually putting down their phones long enough to read a book. (Unless you are like me, and read the book on your phone).

Walk through the corridors at the Indiana Convention Center and you will see all of us heads down, buried in our screens.  

Observe a group of EDUCAUSE attendees sitting in a session prior to its start, and you will see precisely nobody introducing themselves and having a conversation. Instead, we are all on our phones, laptops, and tablets. (Sometimes all 3 at once).

Worried about our students surfing the web when they should be paying attention in class? Compared to the amount of attention EDUCAUSE attendees give to our devices as opposed to the presenters, our students seem by comparison paragons of devotion and focus.

EDUCAUSE may be the center of the universe for acceptance of a device-first manner of social interaction.

Interacting with technologies rather than people is a high status activity at EDUCAUSE.

In Reclaiming Conversation, Turkle relates the college kid “Rule of 3”.  This rule states that whenever a group of friends get together (say 6 or 7 for dinner), at least 3 people need be looking up from their phones and engaging in conversation.  Everyone else is free to surf, post, tweet, and scan - and can jump in and out of the conversation without social penalty.

We EDUCAUSE people don’t need no stinking “Rule of 3”.

As a community, we are good with the “Rule of 0”.  

Our favorite conversations, if we are being honest, are between ourselves and our screens.

It is perfectly acceptable within my tribe to all be together, but to have none of us actually talking with each other.  We are too busy looking at our screens.

Can you imagine a “device free” EDUCAUSE?  

I think the EDUCAUSE attendees would rather go naked than device free.

We, of course, think that we have good reasons to interact with our technologies instead of each other. We need to make ourselves always available for any emergency that may happen back at the ranch. We are so vitally important to the running of our institutions that if we are not constantly on e-mail the whole place might just implode.

And of course, what would a conference be without the backchannel? If we don’t constantly tweet, blog, and post then it will be like EDUCAUSE never happened.

Would EDUCAUSE be a more relaxing and a productive place if we left our devices behind?If everyone at EDUCAUSE had read Reclaiming Conversation, then maybe we would be having a very different EDUCAUSE 2015.

At the very least, we’d all be skeptical about what we have accomplished by achieving ubiquitous connectivity and omnipresent screens.  

How do we get Sherry Turkle to keynote EDUCAUSE 2016?

Can a book change how we think about our profession?

Can an idea change how we go about our work?

What did you read before coming to EDUCAUSE?


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