I love talking about our school, and students all over the country seem to really enjoy hearing about it. When I talk about our relationship with technology, though, I’m sometimes afraid that I’ll lose students’ interest. As I visit schools, I hear and see the challenges of technology: signs about where to and not to use cell phones or comments from teachers reflecting their resignation about texting in class. So I expect students to be shocked by the idea of not using technology for four months. At the same time, I see more and more students wanting to take a break from that constant electronic contact.
I don’t gloss over not having access to the Internet or cell phones. I think it’s one of the most unique parts of our program and even more than that, I think it’s a amazing, if not once in a lifetime, opportunity for our students. Many of us, regardless of generation, have shared our lives online initially through MySpace and Facebook and now through any number of social media programs. Staying connected is even easier with our smart phones and wi-fi hot spots at gas stations, airports and coffee shops.
As we connect with the people that we meet through that social media, we’re given the opportunity to look back at them and see how they have represented themselves online. In many ways we get to know people without ever knowing them, and The Outdoor Academy challenges that pattern. Instead of scrolling through a timeline to get to know someone, students‘ have to ask their peers about their past. The only stories we learn about people are the ones they tell us right there and then, face to face. At The Outdoor Academy students have the opportunity to be the person they want to be, not the person they were or are expected to be, and certainly not reduced to just a few images and 140 characters.