Quiet Zones

Ok, with many of the posts last week on being connected (and some overwhelm), I thought this story on NPR, Enter the Quiet Zone:  Where Cell Service, Wi-Fi are Banned, was quite interesting.

It seems that there are no physical signs you’ve entered the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000-square-mile area that covers the eastern half of West Virginia, but somewhere around the Virginia-West Virginia state line, smartphone services and Wi-Fi stop.

There’s zero service except for one small radio station, which broadcasts at a low enough frequency to avoid being banned.  So, why is everything else banned?  Because they sit within a zone designed to protect the Robert C Byrd Green Bank Telescope, a sophisticated radio telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).  The telescope is the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope, protected from interference by federal and state laws, located in sparsely populated area to avoid electromagnetic interference.

(NOTE – the link above will not work because of Government Shutdown, but you can find information on the Telescope here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Bank_Telescope)

Green Bank telescopeWe still have communications. I mean, it’s just … older. Dial-up telephones. We still have phone booths,” says an engineer for the NRAO and a volunteer at Allegheny Mountain Radio.   Seems that for most of the area, life is at a slower pace. Instant messaging and texting are something to see on television or out of state, but folks seem content to stay disconnected.  At least for now.

I smiled. This story made an impression because while I like being connected with technology and students, being on Facebook with family, texting my granddaughter, and enjoying my Netflix, I also want to just run away sometimes.   I suspect students do too!  We throw both content and technology at them at once.  Are they ready?  Sometimes, I just cross my fingers and hope so. (Oh, a good reminder to look back once in a while to make sure.)

I remember dial-up phones.  I remember writing a note to someone (still do), or sending a real birthday card (still do).  I like holding and reading an actual book (I still do!)  What I really remember is the human, face-to-face and listening communication.  I could see how someone was reacting to conversations.  I heard happiness or sadness in their voice.  It was more important to be tactful and watch words, or to soften a tone of voice.  I could tell when a student was stressed – both by body language and voice. I think it’s harder to tell this online – well, until a student attacks another student in the discussion board, or acts out in class.

So (as Mark Shelley blogged), is being connected 24/7 a good thing, or a bad thing?  Maybe we need to make sure that we not only show and interact with technology with students, but also to find and share Quiet Zones; places to disconnect and slow down.   In my 60’s language, it’s “dropping out” for a while.  I know I need it, and I can’t help think that students do too.  Maybe we just need to model good behavior and give students tools to find their own personal Quiet Zones.  Are there Quiet Zones on campus?

  • The Library  (one of my favorite places)VC Library
  • The Learning Center?
  • The Sculpture Garden
  • The Art Gallery
  • Outside!  (Especially this time of year)
  • Mingus Mountain
  • Anywhere but here (?!)
     Sculpture gardenFall Trees

2 thoughts on “Quiet Zones

  1. Yes, Chris. We do need opportunities for silence. I absolutely must have it daily. Clear thoughts come best when not deluged with music, video, and other outside diversions. Thanks for posting.

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