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McKnight teachers challenge teens to go 'No Tech'

Teachers David Black and Eric Eagon, of McKnight Middle School, challenged their students to go low tech for better social interaction. - Tracey Compton, Renton Reporter
Teachers David Black and Eric Eagon, of McKnight Middle School, challenged their students to go low tech for better social interaction.
— image credit: Tracey Compton, Renton Reporter

When Renton teachers David Black and Eric Eagon challenged students at McKnight Middle School to a “No Technology Challenge,” they had no idea what the results would be.

They started with more than 150 students and asked them to voluntarily not engage with any technology to waste time. This meant no smartphones, video games, computers, watching TV in private or listening to music with headphones.

Black said he noticed the disconnection between people created by technology and that communication just wasn’t there.

“I just see it getting worse each year and having discussions with students, they openly admit that all that technology are distractions,” Black said. “All that amount of time playing video games, watching TV, playing with their phones and also the relationships have crumbled.”

Black notes too that a lot of the bullying kids complain about happens over social media or cyber-bullying.

He discovered the video “Look Up” on a news channel one day that inspired him to create the challenge, with the help of Eagon. The premise of the video is to limit your time in front of screens and instead go out and enjoy the world.

“We showed it to the kids and we wanted to see how long we could go without technology, including television, video games, computers, texting, their phones, everything,” Black said.

The contest started May 1, with periodic rewards such as donuts for those who held on. During their last week of school, there was, between the two teachers, about 20 students left still abstaining from technology.

“In the beginning it was really hard, but as time went on, it got easier,” said student Angelica Godwin. “But then I gave up.”

The hardest part for her was not watching television. She lasted a little more than a month in the challenge.

For other students the challenge just supported the routine they already had with their families.

“I thought it was fairly easy,” said student Tyler Sperry. “I did do a lot of bike ridding and camping with my family.”

Other students read books and played board games with their folks.

“I think the only thing I find interesting is checking in with them again,” said Eagon. “We talked about it just the other day. The students seem to be spending more time with their families. They’re being more active, spending more time outside.”

He’s even gotten comments from parents who are happy their child’s face isn’t buried in some sort of screen. Now the two teachers as of mid-week were playing some sort of reward celebration for Friday, July 20.

“It’s been a success,” said Eagon.

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