Smart Phones, mP3 players, and tech devices:
The big question is: what electronic devices can help us capture and fully embrace the best moments during our Fall semester program? Bringing smart phones, smart watches, or any other smart gadgets? Dragons as an organization has a blanket policy that strongly requests all students leave smart phones at home. You can read more about that in your preparation materials, but in short, we’ve found phones detract from the experience and can create risk management issues for the group. Please carefully read and consider what Dragons has written about smart phones. Here is what you need to know for our semester program in Madagascar.
We want to challenge you to keep your devices at home. It is amazing how dependent we’ve all become on technology and Madagascar might provide one of the few opportunities for you to “unplug” from the pressures of constant social media/electronic connection. It is a truly liberating feeling if you haven’t tried it, or don’t remember the last time you didn’t have a phone at arm’s reach. We encourage everyone to please READ THIS ARTICLE from the New York Times. It’s not the same “technology is corrupting our youth” judgmental piece you’ve seen before, but has some really thoughtful insights on how technology can most affect our ability to be alone. We’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
All that said, we also know that every semester, no matter how much we emphasize it, a few students still show up with devices. We love music and information access too, so we get it…no one here is “anti-technology.”
While we still encourage you to leave your devices at home, we are not expressly “prohibiting” them. However, if you do bring a smarphone/mp3 player your instructors (us) will let you know when and if they are appropriate to use. This means that we will collect and store these devices if they at all distract from our presence in Madagascar, an assessment that we will make.
What we do not want is for you to enter a home-stay, pop in your ear buds, and tune out of the experience around you. We’ve seen electronic devices completely tear students away from their present surroundings, increase home-sickness, and keep one foot in Madagascar and one foot longing for their Snapchat or Instagram feed happening back home. Even our longest and most arduous travel days, precisely when it’s most tempting to put our headphones on, can hold some of the most amazing and unexpected cultural interactions; however, we need to keep our eyes and ears open (i.e., not looking at a screen or listening to music) to engage those unplanned moments.
If you choose to bring an MP3/smartphone type device, plan to RARELY use it and only bring it if you are OK with us holding on to it for extended durations without a big discussion each time. Do not come with an international calling/date plan and do not plan to get a local SIM card. If your smartphone is your only camera, please bring a separate camera; smart phones are not ideal as your primary camera and we don’t want to hear the “I need my phone because it’s my camera” line. We are going to be in dirty/dusty/humid conditions, so don’t bring anything you wouldn’t be fine with losing/having broken/stolen. In sum, we encourage you to leave your devices at home, but if you do bring a phone along, please respect these expectations.
Micah, Mohamed, and Sidonie
Madagascar Course Instructors