I am not a great believer in “inevitability”. I believe that each of us has the power and the responsibility, especially as educators, to create social environments and classrooms that reflect our values, beliefs, and aspirations. When I hear educators use inevitability as an argument for adopting technology, I cringe.
“Today’s 21 year olds have watched 20,000 hours of TV.”
“Today’s 21 year olds have played 10,000 hours of video games.”
“Today’s 21 year olds have talked 10,000 hours on the phone.”
“They’ve sent/received 250,000 instant messages and e-mails.”
“70 percent of 4 year olds have used a computer.”
Source: Did You Know 2.0
I understand that these are the facts and that they paint a picture of the digitally oriented childhood that many of our children are experiencing right now. I also understand that technology can transform our classrooms into rich learning environments. But I object….
So what do I find objectionable? How about spending nearly 7 years of eight hour days watching TV? and nearly 3 years of eight hour days playing video games, and an equal number of years of eight hour days talking on the telephone. I believe that the statistics…13 years of eight hour days spent watching, gaming, and talking on the phone… are abominable!
Thirteen years! Think about that! It certainly doesn’t represent the value I place on the limited time I have on this earth. It doesn’t reflect the value I place on using my gifts for some purpose larger than myself.
Somehow it seems sad.
I know I’m setting myself up to be accused of being a Luddite, missing the point about technology in our classrooms, digital natives, and all that; but I have a responsibility to speak out when I see something that doesn’t seem right.
We are the adults. We can choose to let our children know that it is time to turn off the TV, to get off the computer game, or to hang up the phone. We can choose how much time our four year olds will spend in front of a computer.
I remember when my two daughters (now young college age women) were in elementary school; they would be invited to neighbor’s homes to watch rental movies that were R rated. No one else seemed to object. As parents Liz and I felt pressure to “go with the flow”. I kept saying to myself, “I feel like I’m crazy for objecting to this”, but we did.
I’m sure our girls would have turned out just fine if they had seen the R rated movies. Liz and I are not naive, nor do we think watching a few movies would undermine a lifetime of childrearing; but it’s the principal of the thing. What would we have been saying about our beliefs and values if we just shrugged our shoulders and said, “It’s how things are done nowadays, go ahead.”?
I have the same objections about multi-tasking. When I am talking to someone, I do not want them text messaging friends with their phone at the same time. I do not want them staring at a computer screen or at a Blackberry hidden under the table during team meetings or classes. Paying partial attention to what’s going on around you is not an effective way to learn, run a classroom, or do business; and besides, doesn’t this type of thing seem rude?
I keep thinking of Montag in Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. He lives in a world where his wife is entertained by TV shows on interactive video walls that include her in their stories. They are more real to her than the world in which she lives. Books are banned and burned, not by authoritarian decree, but by the people themselves. Who had time for books? Books offended this one or that one, so why not ban them? After all, they made one feel sad at times and who wanted to feel sad?
Montag finds his way out of this emotionally disconnected culture and discovers a camp of others who have also run away. It is at this camp, along the abandoned railroad tracks, that he makes his home.
We can make the case for technology in our classrooms without resorting to “we can’t beat ’em so why not join ’em” arguments. We don’t have to accept the inevitability of 20,000 hours of TV watching, or global climate change, or poverty. No one is better positioned than educators to vet technology use so that it reflects the best aspects of our culture, not just the most popular.