In class we were asked what technology we believe has had the greatest impact on education. I think that I would say that in my opinion it would be the internet. Educationally the internet has changed how we teach, what we teach, what we consider knowledge. I can remember in school after a parent teacher interview how upset my parents were after my 3rd grade teacher said that spelling didn’t matter because eventually we would spell check everything. My parents thought that was ridiculous because they felt spelling was an important component to being able to function in the “real world”. Reflecting back to that discussion and on my own practice today, there may have been some truth in that conversation had many years ago. There are things that we used to think were really important for students to be successful, those things that people, “should just know”. But those pieces of knowledge are changing all of the time. I am still shocked when students don’t know their multiplication tables, but is that just another example of how technology has changed the way certain knowledge is valued?
I found the idea of “techno-determinism” to be quite interesting. In reality one medium has taken the place of others, my VCR, was overtaken by DVD, my DVD player was replaced by buying movies off of itunes, etc. But do I agree that in some regards technology does contribute to how social structures are shaped and the values of our culture? Even what we used to consider to be “rights of passage” has changed to reflect the impact technology has on our cultural beliefs. A big right of passage in grade 8 is getting a phone. A phone means that your parents trust you be responsible and manage a device that they won’t be able to monitor all the time. It gives you freedom as well as allows you to connect with your friends but also connect potentially with strangers. Getting a phone means that you have reached a point in your maturity that before was perhaps equal to the freedom of your drivers license.
I do believe that in education we do have the “techno-eutopian-ism rose-coloured glasses”. We think that connecting is a really positive experience for students in terms of sharing what they are learning with others. In a sense the reasons we had for putting students in groups before now in a sense can be extended beyond the walls of the classroom or school. Students have the ability to use others to build on their learning and to extend their thinking and then share what they have learned. Those goals, if we can ignore or manage the risks involved are reason enough to venture into the sometime unknown waters.
I also really connected with the Sherry Turkle talk that rises into question whether or not all of this technology is really connecting us in meaningful ways. In my own life I know that I struggle with finding the balance between the two. Often I find myself too immersed in media that I can forget that life is going on around me. Those two iphone commercials did a great job summarizing to me what are the ying and yang of being connected. On one hand I guess we share a little of ourselves online for selfish reasons, but then on the other we share because we want to feel connected to those that aren’t around us. All the while trying to find a balance between the two pulls.