Delbarton "Reconnect Challenge" is a Success

Delbarton "Reconnect Challenge" is a Success
Delbarton "Reconnect Challenge" is a Success
Jessica Fiddes

Delbarton's first attempt at a no-technology day on January 31 – one day late due to a weather cancellation -- was a resounding success.

The School positioned its Reconnect Challenge as an opportunity for community members to pause and reconnect with each other and the world around them. A 24-hour period where Delbarton could rest and reflect apart from the constant presence of smartphones and computers.

We are pleased to report...It worked!

Boys were asked to leave cellphones and laptops at home, and teachers adjusted their curriculum accordingly. On January 31, they took attendance with their laptops, then closed them for the day. They also assigned no homework that night that needed to be completed electronically. Externally, Delbarton social media channels posted the message below, then went dark for the day, an unusual change of pace for the school that almost never sleeps.

That evening, parents were invited to a Come and See event sponsored by Campus Ministry Director Dr. David Hajduk, where they had a chance to reflect on the experience.

Technology Integration Specialist Mr. Rob Flynn says, "Walking around the school and seeing the boys with their heads up, looking to interact and enjoy each other's company, was a welcome change of pace. There were more games, more conversation, more laughter." Teachers commented that students were more energetic, more engaged, and more 'here' than on days when their heads are dipped towards their screens rather than each other.

A highlight of the day was the M block meditative prayer service in the Abbey Church, where Mr. Jonathan Currie led the boys in contemplative – silent -- prayer. A church filled with almost 600 boys and 90 teachers sitting silently for minutes on end, "this could only have happened at a place like Delbarton", says Flynn.

The next day, Flynn surveyed students about the experience. The majority of boys reported finding themselves communicating and connecting more with members of the community. Almost 70% said the challenge helped them reflect on the role of technology in their lives. One student wrote of the day: "Personally, I thought the "No Tech" day was beneficial because it allowed me to realize and understand how much time I spend using technology and how it takes away from other areas of my life. Overall, I felt very accomplished and efficient because I was able to get a lot done after school."

This was a positive learning experience for us all. Flynn says that he is collecting feedback from more teachers and students to make our next Reconnect Challenge even more impactful. "We are excited at the chance to lead our students in a reflective activity to help them better understand themselves."

Prior to the Challenge, in a letter home to parents Headmaster Fr. Michael Tidd wrote, "This is not to say that we believe that technology at Delbarton is bad or improperly used. Rather, just as we fast during Lent, being without technology, even for one day, can help us gain perspective and lead us to a more balanced life."

Finding an appropriate balance among forces (like technology) that compete for our time and attention is a lifelong task that requires thought and honest self-evaluation. Delbarton believes that creating opportunities for students to pause and examine their own behaviors is a necessary first step in mindfulness and growth. Flynn says, "I think when we talk about "Mind, Body, Spirit" education in 2019, the Delbarton Reconnect Challenge is what we mean."