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Students go back to basics and reduce use of technology on 'Conscious Monday'

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SAND, Utah – As teachers and students look for ways to balance the use of technology in the classroom, a school in Sandy is starting the week back to basics with “Mindful Mondays”.

“Our school community board wanted to find a way, not to limit the use of technology, but to focus on its appropriate use,” said Doug Graham, principal of Indian Hills Middle School. “So we came up with this idea – let’s make up one day a week and rest, take a break.”

Graham said “Conscious Mondays” were a response to the challenges students faced in the classroom after the COVID pandemic, when online learning became a daily necessity. Now, every Monday, Indian Hills students put away their cell phones and chrome books and teachers look for opportunities to reduce the use of technology in their classrooms.

For some, it’s about getting back to the basics of using pencils and paper, workbooks, and having group discussions.

“We really need to start taking a step back and doing a lot more of a blended learning model,” Graham said.

In Katie Buffington’s 7th grade language arts class, “Mindful Monday” began by correcting sentences the “old school” way – on paper with a pencil, and not relying on Microsoft Word to do it.

“I’m part of the iPad generation. I can’t imagine what this generation is; they’re iPad to the extreme,” Buffington said. “So it’s part of their everyday life – they’re not really exposed or used to not having these instant tech responses.”

Buffington said that for some students, taking a break from tech is a struggle, which makes “mindful Mondays” even more critical to their educational development.

“Our brain remembers what we write much better than what we type or read,” Buffington said. “So I try to get them to see, listen, and then write as much as possible on Mondays, and then we apply them later in the week, either with technology or both, or whatever works best.”

The students in the Buffington class say they miss using their chrome books, but love “Conscious Mondays.”

“I kinda 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 writing.”

“Last year we just did computer, canvas, canvas, canvas, and now we’re actually back to paper, back to the ability to write, to improve our writing,” said 7th grader Madeleine Thaut. “I think it helps our brains grow more.”

Thaut said students at Indian Hills Middle School are more engaged during lunchtime thanks to “Conscious Mondays.”

“On ‘Mindful Monday,’ you can sit down, eat your lunch, actually talk to them — say, ‘Hi, how was your weekend? What did you do?’ instead of texting them,” Thaut said.

Graham said he, too, noticed more student interaction in the dining hall on Monday, which was another focus for “Mindful Monday.”

“We just want the kids to interact, like in the dining room. One day a week it’s nice to go there and see the face-to-face interaction and the kids coming out and playing again. And , you know, in a 20 minute period, that might not be such a dramatic effect, but it just helps them understand that, hey, it’s important, and you have to be careful about the time spent on your phones,” he said.

There are no set rules for teachers on “Conscious Mondays”, just a hope that they will reduce the 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 that’s not,” Graham said. “And we really have 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 about balance,” Buffington said. “We only had screens in front of us for two years in a row for education and everything, so it’s going to be tough, and it’s going to be an uphill battle, but I think ultimately having that balance pays off educationally and personally.