I once heard someone compare teaching children of the digital age how to use technology, akin to standing outside of a fish tank, teaching the fish to swim – and it’s true. Somewhere between sad and amazing, I’ve seen my own children and students able to do things with technology at a mere fraction of the time it took me to learn how to do the same thing. I’ll never forget the time that my husband and I purchased a large LED television set, only to have our two-year old go up to the options screen and try to swipe his hand across it like an ipad to get the image to change. “Digital Natives,” is the correct term for these children … that would make us what? Digital immigrants?
While I will admit that I’m not completely fluent on all parts of technological literacy, I would also like to argue that I don’t think anyone ever can be. Things change too quickly. Apps take place and replace one another before certain programs even have the time to take off. Where I don’t think new is bad, I also don’t believe that new is always improved. I think there are some things that are meant to be experienced, not “looked up,” and I think relying too heavily on any tool, technology especially, can be a dangerous and crippling thing. Think about texting … have you ever read one wrong? How can you display emotion beyond punctuation marks? Sometimes they aren’t enough to convey whether an attitude is sweet or sarcastic and that is where the trouble begins. I talk to my students about this sometimes, pun though it may be, we need to be willing to realize that reading things out of context is the exact con, to texting!
We “insta” this and “tweet” that, immersing ourselves in total-access, but rarely take the time to give a call, have a visit or, heaven forbid it, spend time alone. Einstein saw this tech-revolution coming, and said, “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” The good news? I don’t think we’re quite there … yet. I’ve been close; I remember once, my phone was broken for two whole days. The first day I was a wreck, I watched the hours pass worrying that no one could get in touch with me–find me. The second day I recognized the disconnect for what it was … a forced breather. No one could find me, no one could call me – for just two days, I was free.
This past week, I took a chance and showed the video “Look Up” to my students. I had them report on how they felt technology has affected them and their life. It might surprise you as much as it did me, that their journals were filled with pages and pages of frustration. They shared anecdotes, reflections and connections; they were brutally honest about how social media has handicapped their friendships and broken more than one relationship in their lives. The amazing thing is, these “Digital Natives” too, are ready for a change. A first grade teacher, K.G. relayed the truth that, “Yes, kids love technology, but they also love Legos, scented markers, handstands, books and mud puddles. It’s all about balance.”
Balance. That’s what we all crave; that’s what we all need. In terms of technology … I urge you to use it, to love it, but to temporarily go on a “Digital Detox” of sorts. Have a weekend free of emails, free of Facebook and Twitter. Call someone. Visit someone. Paint a picture. Read a book. Take a walk. Breathe and remember that life is about more than a status update or intriguing post. Be in the moment, present and focused on things that don’t necessarily demand your attention, but do deserve it.
As always I’d love to hear your thoughts.