Working on MAETY1 in the car from Florida to Kentucky
No, not me, but I have grown up in the computer era. I got my first computer, a PC junior, in second grade at the age of 8. So, I’ve always been comfortable on and around computers and technology. I grew up with it in my house and as a part of our family. My parents both started their careers as computer programmers. But, I can’t even pretend to know what it is like for my students and my own children growing up in the age of the internet and the technology tools of today. My children are young, 4 and 7, and both already are completely comfortable on our family iPad, on my iPhone, on their Leapster 2 and DSi, playing Wii games, using software on the iMac we have in our living room and navigating the few educational websites I allow them to play while supervised. Technology and its various tools and applications have been a part of their lives and they wouldn’t have a clue what life without it would be like. I even find it hard to remember at times what it was like prior to texting and Smartphones. How quickly we come to rely on the technologies that we immerse ourselves in.
In watching the two Frontline videos, Growing Up Online (2008) and Digital Nation (2010), it was interesting to see the differences in the two videos, just a little over two years apart. One, reflecting upon students growing up online from more of a social network standpoint; the earlier video focused more on student use of MySpace and Facebook, IM and email and the effect this has on students, including issues of cyberbulling. The second video, focused more on all of the many ways our attention can be divided through and by technology and our ability, or inability, to multi-task in all things “tech”. It also discussed Second Life and World of Warcraft, both types of virtual worlds, designed for people to work, live and play in.
I believe that the vast majority of the students I see spend a huge percentage of their out of school time on Facebook, tweeting, texting (okay, they do this in school, too) and playing games online. This is their social time, how they interact and relate to one another. I also believe that we should spend more time, from an earlier age/grade level, teaching students netiquette and how to work safely online and to be smart about what they put online. It is too easy to type words into a phone or onto a computer and send them through cyberspace to someone without regard to how the receiving individual will “take” those words. Even words that are not intended to be mean can often be misunderstood when they are sent electronically because all emotion is stripped and they are just words on a screen – this leaves the reader to interpret the tone and/or intent. We need to make sure our students know the power of their words, both positive and negative.
I was truly able to relate to the Digital Nation video and the “always connected” concept. I am at a loss when I lose signal on my iPhone or when I can’t access information immediately online. I’ve even become spoiled so that when the internet connection is slow, I am utterly impatient. I didn’t realize how much I “multi-task” while I am online until watching this video and thinking about all of the times in the past several weeks of my summer coursework that I have had multiple windows and tabs open, clicking between them, chatting in Facebook with colleagues and classmates, checking email and Twitter and the list goes on and on. As I continued to follow one distraction after another, I had to continually re-read what I had already typed into the blog post I was working on at the time to make sure the post continued to flow despite my stop and go fashion of writing. It took me much longer than it should have to have completed each task due to the multi-tasking or giving in to the “multi-distractions”. The study done on students that were seen as “multi-taskers” showed interesting results on effectivity or lack thereof. I concur that it is difficult to do deep thinking and reflection when flooded with all of the other available distractions and opportunities online.
So, what do I take away from all of this? Well, I believe that we should allow more access to today’s technology tools in our classrooms, but I believe there should be some times when we are all forced to power down and take a break from the constant flow of information. It doesn’t have to be a long break, but I think it is important that we teach our students to be responsible with the tools they have and when and how they use them. And speaking of powering down… I’m at the end of a 12-hr road trip and I’ve been online for at least 10 of those hours. I think it is time for me to take my own advice!