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Back in my day…

We’ve all heard the expression (my grandparents are internationally known for its overuse): Back in my day (insert nostalgic memory here).  But its true.  We are experiencing the most rapid period of change in the history of our race.  And the pace is only increasing, exponentially.  Things change faster than we can comprehend.  This is the first, and hopefully not the last time, I’ve used a “blog.” (back in my day, when you wanted to communicate with someone, you sent them a letter!).  I am lost, I don’t even know if I am doing this right.  Can you read it?  Is the font all pretty the way I wanted it to be, or is it still black and white?  Hello?  Is anyone there?  There is information I would like to share: I tried to link this blog to my flickr account so you can view it (again, I have no idea if I did it correctly so fill me in if you can).  I see people (read children and the non-technologically challenged adults) gobbling up these new outlets of modernization with little consideration of the implications.  What are those implications?

The list is endless, open to debate, and steeped in opinion.  But since this is my blog, that’s what you’re going to get!  Cell phones emit radiation, watching too much tv kills your brain cells, staring at a screen is bad for your eyes and gives you headaches, and on top of all this, our generations keep getting more and more incapable of having a normal conversation (I am waiting for the day someone says “L.O.L.” in a verbal conversation.  This will be the point where I lose all faith in humanity).  Let this list suffice for now; if you have more you’d like to add to the list, leave a comment.  (don’t even get me started on technology and global warming…)

With all these negatives, are there any positives?  Yes.  Technology has the ability to improve our lives in so many ways.  When I student taught at Byron Bergen, the school district purchased 40 Ipads for use in the classrooms (I wish I was there to see the Apple store’s manager’s face when the superintendent of BBSD walked in and asked for 40 Ipads: can you say christmas bonus?).  Students could explore the different parts of the brain on a smartboard and interact with it by spinning it around, twisting it, deconstructing it, and reading about the different functions of the different parts.  I used the smart boards to play geography games.  Sure, this seems great! And yeah, I guess in a way it is.  That’s the best way to learn, interactively.  But what are we teaching our kids?  That in order to learn it has to be fun?  Anytime I tried to have five minutes of lecture, que the texting, side conversations, and napping.  I was crushed when I planned what I thought was an awesome lesson just to see it do a nosedive because it didn’t involve a computer screen or a joystick (spelling?). 

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: first, I am not complaining.  Things are what they are and there is little you can do about it.  I think our use of technology reflects a larger problem within the postmodern era.  We create, create, create and consume at a pace that outpaces our ability to completely comprehend the implications of that consumption.  Don’t believe me? asbestos, coal, nuclear energy, gasoline, mustard gas, the internet (shall I go on?).  Education is part of this snowball effect.  The birth of mass communication has finally leached into the educational system and we are facing a divide between the educator and educatee.  Things have moved so quickly in the past 20 years that a 50-year-old history teacher might consider it OK to still use a regular blackboard and chalk.  I think its great we have this technology to use in our classrooms, but it is a double edge sword.  Kids may be more enthusiastic to learn, but they are also moving at the speed of technology.  If we can’t keep up, the technology controls us, not the other way around.

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2 responses to “Back in my day…

  1. Stephen Ransom ⋅

    Wow… where to begin? I think you’ve captured so many important ideas here that are worthy of much more than this simple comment. I’m so glad to see that you are thinking about all of this. One of my favorite thinkers and authors, Neil Postman, is someone that I think would really resonate with you. He goes in to great depth talking about the “faustian bargain” that we make when dealing with progress and technology… that with the many benefits are always consequences or downsides that we tend not to consider or seek out in our hurry down the road to “progress”.

    That being said, technologies have indeed revolutionized how we communicate and learn. We cannot survive by keeping education in a 20th century (or even 19th) bubble. Socrates mourned the advent of the book as a distraction from critical thinking. Later, others feared the quill, and later, the pen for largely the same reasons.

    If we are going to educate a generation to think critically about our culture and our future, we need to equip them with the tools and knowledge to successfully navigate the complexities that come with these cultural shifts. This cannot be done without leveraging the very tools and technologies that are being used out of the classroom on a global scale. If education is indeed to prepare students to be successful beyond school (not in school), then we need to be informed and prepared for what awaits us when we operate in the “real world”. This cannot be done with blinders on.

    So, we have a tough… and exciting job ahead of us – one that requires incredible skills and knowledge. You might enjoy the recent posts by Will Richardson:
    http://willrichardson.com/post/9666590818/a-vision-for-who-our-students-need-to-be
    http://willrichardson.com/post/9702520926/it-will-change-education

    Welcome to the course. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts and wrestling with all of these important ideas.

  2. Stephen Ransom ⋅

    Big (and important) questions, Michael! Did my first comment end up as being held for moderation in your email by any chance?

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