Smart Phones, mP3/music players, and tech devices.
The big question is: what electronic devices can help us capture and fully embrace the best moments during our summer. Dragons as an organization has a blanket policy that strongly requests all students leave their smartphones and smart watches, etc. at home. You can read more about that in your preparation materials, but in short, we’ve found these devices tend to detract from the experience and can create risk management issues for the group. Please carefully read and consider what Dragons has written about smartphones. Here is what you need to know for our summer together 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 or this article from Harper’s. They are not the same “technology is corrupting our youth” judgmental pieces you’ve seen before, but have some really thoughtful insights on how technology can most affect our ability to be alone and the cost/benefit of being constantly connected.
We know that 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 music 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, which is 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.
We acknowledge that people interact with the world and their surroundings in different ways and we accept that some people (some of us included) tend to enjoy long and stressful days of travel a little better with music. That said, 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 and we have to be present in order to engage those unplanned moments.
We know that many people prefer to use a kindle in addition to or in lieu of traditional books and we are okay with you bringing a paper white version (or similar equivalent) of that device. Do not bring a Kindle Fire or any other small tablet that is designed for and capable of connecting to the internet, etc.
If you choose to bring a music playing device, plan to RARELY use it and only bring it if you are okay with us holding on to it for extended durations without a big discussion each time. Do not come with an international calling/data plan and do not plan to get a local SIM card. If your smartphone is your only camera, please bring a separate camera; smartphones 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, Sidonie and Colin.