Thursday, September 22, 2011
Let's talk technology
And I wonder why I am worn out? Why my life feels like there isn't a moment of down time? There isn't. Technology, with all its bright lights and fast pace, has seeped into my life everywhere. I am watching as the fascination with it - and it is fascinating - begins to disrupt traditional modes of communication in my life, like face to face conversations. And my classroom. No longer is it a place of focused conversation between my students and myself. It is a place with computer screens bisecting desks, and students busy pushing buttons and playing on Facebook and Wikipedia, and texting on cell phones.
I guess what I am saying is that technology is ahead of us. We are enthralled with it. It has become essential to how we live and work. But we have yet to figure out how to control it. We are like that kid in Charlie in the Chocolate Factory who loves chocolate so much he jumps into the chocolate sea and nearly drowns.
I hope you don't think I have the answers to this dilemma, because I don't. Of course, there are personal decisions that we all have to make, things we can do to create non-technology time in our days and weeks. A sabbath day away from it all. A sabbath time of day every day so families can see each other face to face. The dilemma I am talking about is taking place in larger communities (like our high schools and universities) with lots and lots of implications. One aspect of this communal dilemma that I think needs immediate attention is our classrooms, and how to recreate classroom etiquette. I don't mean to sound like Emily Post, but my gosh, we need some etiquette here. I am not harping on how rude these behaviors are becoming, or how disruptive (they are both these things). What I'm harping on is that these behaviors have already destroyed our classrooms. There can be no classroom when twenty students are sitting there on Facebook and Flipboard and their phones. I don't know what it is, but it isn't a classroom. No learning is going on.
The internet has allowed for an interesting yet destructive blending of mental spaces. Want to know something? Look it up on Wiki. Learning something and entertainment have been blended. Learning is no longer viewed as healthy hard work, something that our minds should have to struggle to do. If it is not entertaining in the classroom, well then, let's surf the internet. I think that this is due in part to the fact that because of the internet and sites like Wiki, all forms of knowledge have been blended into each other, so that popular opinion and popular ways of knowing (what is called plain style knowledge) have been given equivalent weight with critical engagement and critical ways of knowing that require years of training and professionalization in particular fields (what we teach in our classrooms and write about in our publications).
So I put this out into cyberspace as a kind of call, especially to other teachers. We need to get caught up with the technology and establish technology boundaries in our classrooms. We need to take back the classroom.