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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Being Digitally Literate

Over the past 2 weeks I have been regularly posting my thoughts in relation to Digital Literacy over on my new blog site as www.beingdigitallyliterate.wordpress.com

So far I have posted on 6 different areas related to digital literacy:

  • Digital Literacy: Some initial thoughts on what the term means
  • Evolving Technology: How the pace of technological change impacts of digital literacy
  • Cross Platform Skills: The need to develop the ability to work across different platforms and software and to learn how to use new solutions as they arise
  • Awareness of Technology: We use technology all of the time but are more aware of some technologies we use than we are of others
  • Encryption and public safety: The internet provides a safe place for all including those who wish to do that which is evil or illegal but weaker encryption isn’t the answer
  • Where’s my data: We sign up to more and more services in doing so share more and more data with the internet

I hope to continue adding the site with regular posts, with each post posing questions to promote thinking and/or discussion.    Hopefully over time the site will build to become a useful resource.

 

Being digitally literate

Have today started a new blog site called “Being Digitally Literate” focusing on ideas around developing digital literacy in students.    My hope is to create a site which explores and asks questions as I explore and ask questions, and that by doing so it might help others to also explore ideas.

As a starting point I have decided to re-post my first entry from the site below:


What does it mean to be digitally literate?

We often speak about the importance of developing digital literacy in our students.   The issue with the intention is the lack of clarity as to what it means to be digitally literate, the areas which should be covered in developing such literacy and also the methods or approaches which should be used in this development.

I intend to post my thoughts on this matter over the coming weeks and months.   I will admit that I suspect a number of my posts will pose more questions than they answer, however my hope is that the act of posing questions will promote further thought even if this is just within myself.

To get the ball rolling I would like to just define in very general terms what I believe we are looking to achieve in developing digital literacy.    I believe the fact we are even discussing digital literacy is an acceptance that we are living in an increasingly digital world.   We are surrounded by ever increasing levels of technology in our work life, social and home lives.     As such the previous literacies, of languages and communication, including reading and writing, and of mathematics are no longer sufficient.   We need digital literacy.

Given this seeking to develop digital literacy is seeking to ensure that our students are sufficiently literate with this new technological world and with its technologies, to be successful in their lives.   To be able to understand the technologies and use the technologies appropriately and effectively.

Does the above definition cover what is meant digital literacy or is there something missing?