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Thinking Computers

Posted on: April 4, 2011

Thinking Computers

                The more plugged into technology that we get, the less plugged in to one another we become. I remember my sister telling me a story about going for ride in her friend’s car with three others present. All four people were using their cell phones to speak or text yet no one was talking to anyone else in the car!

                All too often our present society offers a way for people to live completely out of touch with others through their computers.  We can order in food online (take out or like the UK’s TESCO grocery delivery). We can rent movies (think Net Flicks) and we can chat via text, email, chat rooms, and blogs about our day to day lives. Some people even have the ability to work completely from home as well as take care of personal items such as banking, all from the comfort of their lazy boy! So, is there a trend that perhaps lessens our beliefs in technology and culture? Yes, I think many people have become aware of the pervasiveness of technology and have seen the dangers of allowing technology to become too much a part of our lives. Humans are social beings and perhaps it is unhealthy to live in such seclusion, perhaps that existence is not living at all! I think the pendulum has simply started to swing back again toward technologies more humble beginnings.

                At first, technology was for entrainment, for the sake of invention. To see if we could make a machine do a particular task just to see if it could do it. Then we wanted technology to do that task more efficiently. Next we wanted the technology to do the task better than a human could and then our next step is / was to get technology to take on the improvements/ developments completely on its own and eradicate the human component altogether. I think that last step has frightened some and some who have questioned what it means to be humans.  While I think computers will surpass humans in most areas of thought and work, I don’t think a computer could ever replace the emotional part of humans which drives so many things in our world.  I think the pendulum of technology embedded in our culture is experiencing a swing in the direction of  using technology as it best serves to make our lives easier but then not to allow it to continue to rule every aspect our of lives.

                There is a back to basics trend in food; many people are becoming backyard gardeners. Throw away lifestyles have become passé even though a few short years ago no one would have thought twice of buying a bottle of water and throwing that bottle away. The idea of enjoying family and the simple, non-materialistic things in life to escape the stress and pressures of work has become a trend as well. It only follows suit that there would be a trend in technology for people to perhaps unplug and spend time conversing, playing together or really enjoying any activity that wasn’t invaded by technology.

                I think teachers need to keep in mind two main ideas when it comes to technology and education:  

               1. Technology is here for the long haul. There is no sense in making it the forbidden fruit, our students will seek it out and use it whether we are on board with technology or not. We should be teaching our students how to use technology safely and properly. Also, if our job is truly to teach and to prepare students for the future than it is certain that technology must play some role in that preparation.

                2. Technology can be a great thinking tool! But it is that a tool, not a program, an end or a teacher in and of itself. Technology is not a replacement for quality teaching or student to student interactions.  In an increasingly technology driven society, students, perhaps more than ever, need to learn how to get along with one another, how to view things from another’s perspective and how manners, ‘netiquette’ , etc. to relate to the person that is surely sitting in the other side of their network.  Teachers need to be sure to use technology to develop the learning of our students while we remain focused on developing the student through the learning.

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