Author Logan Ward talks technology with RU freshmen


Logan Ward with his family on their farm near Staunton, Va.

Radford University students took a trip back in time last week to an era where smart phones, laptops and Wifi-equipped dorm rooms were nonexistent.

Nationally-known author Logan Ward spoke with the CORE Connections freshmen learning community on Sept. 10 about his chart-topping book "See You in a Hundred Years." Ward chronicled his family's 21st century venture from New York City to rural Virginia, where they lived on a farm as if it were the year 1900 in the book.

This is the fourth year RU has offered the Core Connections program to new freshmen with dual enrollment credit for ENG 111 and ENG 112. About 80 students take UNIV 100 on Monday and Wednesday and CORE 201 Monday, Wednesday and Friday. All classes are taught in Young Hall to try to build a sense of community, said Susan Van Patten, director of Faculty Development. In addition, students are assigned a book to read over the summer and have an essay due the first week of classes.

"Our intent is to raise their academic expectations of RU," Van Patten added.

It's been more than 10 years since Ward took his young family on that life-changing journey, but the lessons they learned remain a valuable teaching tool for today's youth, who are constantly immersed in a technology-driven world.

"You can't escape it," said Ward, speaking of technology. "But you can learn how to use it wisely."

In the year 2000, Ward and his young family of his wife, Heather, and their toddler, Luther, lived a bustling life in New York City.

On paper, Ward said, "everything looked great."

Both adults led successful careers that took them around the world. But the day-to-day stress of work, deadlines and travel started to wear on the couple. They struggled with their relationship along with the thought that their young son might grow up in world where he wouldn't even be able to see the stars shine at night.

So the pair made an executive decision to search for a simpler life. They wound up on a small farm near Staunton, where they lived for a year without electricity and running water – just as a family might have lived in the early 1900s. They harvested their own food, pumped water from a well, traveled by horse and buggy and spent many nights under the stars, very visible in the clear, country sky.

During his visit to RU, Ward recounted the struggles his family endured on the farm. Taming their ornery draft horse Belle wasn't an easy job, and neither was keeping pests off the plants, hauling heavy buckets of water to do laundry and run a bath or brewing a cup of coffee on a wood stove. There were constant worries of running out of food and encountering poisonous snakes.

But there were also tremendous rewards in self-sufficiency and gaining a true sense of family and community. Technology became passé, whereas porch conversations and handwritten letters became the norm.

A year later, the couple returned to the 21st-century with a new appreciation of each other and a new philosophy for facing technology.

"Don't let technology undermine your humanity," Ward told the class.

Following his presentation, Ward held a Q&A in which he asked questions to the students regarding their reliance on smart phones and social media. Together the group weighed the pros and cons of such technology, discussed ways to moderate its usage and suggested small, routine steps they could take to break away from its constraint.

"Respect, embrace and control technology," Ward urged the students, "Don't let it control you."

Van Patten said it was a privilege to have Ward talk and engage with the students.

"Anytime we can get our students excited about reading and interacting with speakers we consider it a win," she said.

Students will continue the discussion on today's technologies throughout the semester, including an assignment where they will be asked to temporarily turn off their smart phones.

Sep 16, 2014