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Back 40: Big Sky tech summit

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Balancing technology and the natural world

Story and photos by Jeremy Harder EBS Contributor

Since the beginning of human history, we’ve been on a quest to find balance in our lives. Initially, we sought to balance our existence with two modes of survival, flight and fight.

We then pondered the ideas of ancient philosophers, world leaders and educated nutritionists. Currently, we share brainy quotes about life’s balancing act on the Internet, and purchase coffee mugs with similarly witty passages. We explore health clubs that offer yoga, CrossFit and seasonal dietary cleanses to aid in that elusive journey for the human need to balance.

Through trial and error, I have come up on the side of error countless times. I am the least balanced person I know. I either work way too much, play entirely too long, or contemplate this misuse of balance more than I practice it.

I’m an educator and we are supposed to live balanced lives. We work with children all day; discuss struggles and successes with adults at night; work most of the year; and (I love this one) have our summers “off.”

Harder’s fourth-grade students caught collaborating, creating and communicating with Google Chromebooks.

But maybe this is my way of balancing? I work tirelessly and play incessantly. Practicing the extreme on both sides of the scale just may be the way I handle my balance best. Like the nature of learning, balance is something we all do differently. Some are great at sitting quietly and listening, some learn best by watching others, while others must be vocally engaged in conversation to learn.

When I first started teaching in Big Sky, I wrestled with the normal practices in education and found it necessary that my students and me explored the outdoors every Friday. We would load up our backpacks and head out to examine all the oddities of the natural world, and return feeling refreshed and more connected with nature.

In this current stage of my tenure in the district, my role is a leader in technology. I promoted it in the classroom through the 1:1 student to technology device initiative. I run workshops for educators throughout the state, and plan daily learning experiences to practice the benefits of technology for students and staff.

How do we balance the use of technology in schools while preserving the instinctual desire to connect with nature?  How do we keep the harmony of 21st century technology intelligence with physical, emotional and social intelligences?

The Harvard Medical School and National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health are among the many research institutions touting the positive health benefits of meditation, exercise, brain breaks and connecting with nature.

But how does this affect a generation of tech savvy individuals? Do we resort to fight or flight? I advocate we shift to welcoming a balance between technology skills and our well-being to meet the needs of our students.

At the Big Sky Global Technology Summit on Oct. 20-21 the district and attendees will explore ways to bring this balance to the classroom, and at home or work. Visit to register, or for more information.

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