Connected, Networked

Warm, but cold?

Technology is horrible. People no longer get the exercise from shivering because they now have warm clothes to wear. People are physically warmer because they have warm clothes. However, because they no longer shiver, they are actually colder. Technology is horrible.

In her TED Talk, Connected, But Alone? Sherry Turkle engages in a rhetoric of fear mongering that contradicts with her own earlier statements. In the collection of essays titled Evocative Objects she edited, Sherry Turkle frames objects as essential parts of our lives. “We think with the objects we love; we love the objects we think with” (5). A cell phone is just as much an object as a cello or a copy of the World Book Encyclopedia, both of which are featured in Evocative Objects. Predictably, a cell phone is not featured in that book. Somehow playing a cello is fantastic and crucial to thinking while using your phone degrades you into some lesser being. Humans were alive long before the cello and the cell phone so we can agree that neither are crucial for human survival. In fact, both are objects that have gained cultural value. When we use our cell phones we open up a world of possibilities. The same, you could argue, is true when you play the cello. The way I see it the only difference is playing a cello screams privilege in a way that using a phone does not.

Simon Sinek, in his talk, frames millennials as victims of bad parenting only to go on and engage in some victim blaming. I do not know if the two realize that their condescension towards millennials is echoed on Breitbart. These views seem misguided by an inability and/or unwillingness to accept change and to realize that change is the only constant. In this a way, millennials are in the same position as teachers. Both are often blamed for the wrongdoings of others.

Teaching Technology?

While I am highly skeptical of Joshua Cooper Ramo’s seventh sense, I often ponder the very same question he posed: What are educational institutions doing? Posing this question to themselves is exactly what educational institutions need to do. Universities and colleges do not seem to know what to do with their students. They want to increase access but jack up the prices. They want students to be prepared for jobs but hesitate to train students for anything but careers in academia.

Regardless, higher education institutions need to understand that just as they have their own goals, students too have their own goals. We have seen above that people from different generations do not always understand one another. Sinek and Turkle realized that they do not understand millennials but their answer was to classify them as somehow lesser. Yet higher education institutions have to try. Thus the only true obligation that higher education institutions have to their students is to listen and respond, not listen and diagnose.

On this note, schools too have to realize that the only constant is change. This is fitting because we have learned that change is the educational technologists’ trade. The educational technologist’s primary role is not to tinker with new toys but rather to see, hear, and understand how students learn and then tinker with new toys that will help students learn.

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