There is a video going viral right now. It appeared originally on my Facebook feed, but a student felt it was important enough to share it directly with me as well. She is pro-technology and knows I am too, but the video made her think about the repercussions of too much technology, and she wanted to share those with me.
This video is worth watching by all…
A Bicycle for the Mind…
The late Steve jobs built his company on a profound idea that was widely accepted and drove the use (and sales) of personal computers. There is a clip of him describing computers as a “bicycle for the mind.”
I would agree with Steve that the computer, Internet, and other widely used pieces of technology can be a bicycle for the mind. I have seen it happen in my classroom. With the use of iPads and other web tools my students are able to connect, collaborate, and create with other students worldwide – a feat that would not have been possible pre-Internet days. Technology has made learning more efficient. However, the poem posted at the top addresses something completely different.
The poem delivers a compelling message of technology getting in the way or even inhibiting human connectedness
. Notice how I didn’t say social connectedness
. As a part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
, as humans, we need a sense of belongingness. We need to feel that we are a part of something, and social networks are hubs for this. When a person feels that their immediate environment does not provide that need, then he or she finds others like them online. However, a social network doesn’t nurture human connectedness.
Too Much Technology Too Young…
Before I started grad school, I found it amazing that my 3-year-old could pick up an iPad and intuitively navigate it. He began to show an interest in dinosaurs and soon knew more than I do. I had drunk the Apple flavored kool-aid and thought the iPad to be truly “magical.”
But part of my grad school course work also focused on the dangers in which too much technology can cause when used during the first years of child development. One text in particular sparked much discussion. Jane Healy’s book Failure to Connect
(1999) gave multiple examples of children exposed to too much technology before the age of seven. What she found was scary. Over exposure to technology before the age of seven can cause severe and irreversible social behaviors in children when they get older. This was due to a lack of human connectedness
. After reading this, I immediately took away the iPad from my kids and focused more on puzzles, blocks, Legos, and board games. Activities that involve talking, seeing, and touching another human being. THIS is the human connectedness that is necessary for healthy social development. Do my kids still use an iPad? Yes, but in limited segments of time, and I’m usually sitting right next to them in order to provide social interaction during the iPad activity.
So to sum up what the poem is saying, in my own words, while technology can be a bicycle for the brain, it can be a tranquilizer for human interaction. To better contrast the above poem, Apple’s latest advertising campaign does a good job of giving examples of how technology can make understanding more efficient.
Notice in almost every example how the person who is holding the iPad is using it while talking to another human. The iPad is being used as a TOOL, not a catalyst for social networking and a false idea of human connectedness, which is what I believe the poem at the top is attempting to address.
If technology is treated as a TOOL to help solve a problem, then I believe it can be a “bicycle for the mind.” If people treat it as a hub for filling the need of belongingness, then it can cause social repercussions. I hope, through my classroom, my students understand the difference.
P.S. I realize this post leaves a lot of holes for debate, so what are your thoughts about too much technology? How do we determine when IS too much? How do you teach your students to use technology as a TOOL and not not a social hub?