Technology: a two sided discussion

Have recently been reading The Glass Cage by Nicholas Carr and it has got me thinking about technology, how we use it and its impact.

On one side we can draw the conclusion that technology is helping us and is beneficial.   It aids us in planning, augmenting out memory.   So I can use my calendar and tasks to help me organise my days, weeks, months and years and to manage the various tasks which I have to undertake.   Technology can augment our knowledge and ability to research through the use of google to search for information on demand including when on the move or even during the pub quiz night when the quiz master isn’t looking.    It can help us improve our writing through not having to be as concerned with spelling, etc as your word processor will either point out errors or even correct them for you.    These are just a small number of ways in which technology can be beneficial.

There is however a flip side.   As we rely on the spellchecker we become less able to spell new words.   We also possibly don’t check our spelling as carefully as we might have done previously as we assume the software will have done this for us.    I can definitely vouch for this as I have read things I have posted in the past only to identify spelling and other errors which I hadn’t noticed prior to posting.   I am confident part of the reason I didn’t notice is my confidence in the software as it pointed out many errors as I wrote the post, which I then corrected, so therefore I assumed it had picked up all the errors.

Moving on and taking the issue of memory and google, google might lead to us believing what we read without checking.    This however is the subject of teaching on technology use.    It also sorts the search results based on complex algorithms to try and provide us the information which we seek.   The algorithms have popularity at their core and therefore the search items tend to represent the popular and common beliefs as opposed to more fringe and lesser known beliefs.   The days of finding an unusual book in the library leading to significant learning at a tangent to a persons initial thinking are disappearing as we never move much beyond the first couple of pages of search results.     I also wonder that in this convenience of knowledge where we have a quick search and then results, there isn’t the same questioning and evaluation of the information being returned.    Its a bit like the impact convenience food had on society.   The convenience made things easier but did it make things better?   Its also a bit like the autopilot in planes, it made the job easier for the pilot however in doing so had the undesirable impact of reducing pilot flying ability.

As to my organisational skills, I am now reliant on my outlook calendar and through it I can easily manage my days however when presented with an issue such as double booking or a high priority event arising, am I as capable in managing?

Technology is helping us in many ways by augmenting what we can do or by allowing us to focus on higher order activities by automating lower order thinking activities however at what cost?    I think a bigger concern is are we conscious of the implications and costs and what about our children who may never had to manage things pre-computers, using a library or a paper diary or a dictionary.   If students no longer know how to manage their time on paper or how to find books in a library, is this loss of experience, skill, etc. a concern or is it inconsequential?    Do we spend time and make them conscious of the other side of technology use?

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Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the Middle East. In addition Gary is a Google and Microsoft Certified Educator.

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