Location, location, location…

As I write this, I’m considering the types and degrees of changes that have come about in my present work setting since I left it in 2004. I recently returned to it after full-time graduate study and some contrasting work assignments. My full-time teaching positions required me to be physically present in brick and mortar classrooms with my students. In those settings, I was given opportunities to utilize a web-based teaching tools known as Blackboard. While we used Blackboard on a daily basis (posting and grading of assignments, provision of enrichment materials), we participated in face-to-face, real-time engagement. Facebook had become a popular social media for college-aged students (and younger). Twitter was still on the horizon.

These days, I am again meeting my students in a brick and mortar environment. The difference lies in the variety of teaching tools that I have at my disposal This generation of learners is hard-wired (excuse the pun) to expect an increase in the amount and type of technology provided for them. As the first marking period has closed, I am still honing my technological chops as I become more adept at using the Rediker portal and Google Classroom. I suppose this truly is confirmation of the fact that we are all life-long learners. Both of these platforms are considered to be staples in the way we communicate within our academic community.

I recently read a synopsis of Thomas Friedman’s, The World is Flat. In it, the author describes 10 factors contributing to the reduction in the geographic distances that separate us from educational, business, and familial connections. Beginning with the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 through the current proliferations of personal digital devices, Friedman credits these benchmarks with promoting a more global sharing of intellectual properties and international commerce. He sees these as representative of positive changes in the world’s “landscape” while others are less than positive about their flattening effects. In The World is Spiky, Richard Florida conversely views the results of this flattening as contributing to an increase in disparities in a variety of settings. These differences include a widening of gaps between have and have-nots around the world, a reclustering of populations in cities serving as labor, technology, finance hubs.

Fourteen years after Friedman’s publication, the question remains as to whether technological advances can and should be viewed as either positive or negative in our world. My question is whether or not these advances need to be one or the other. As we are well into the 21st century, shouldn’t we be able to use the technology we’ve developed in a way that will best serve the needs of our world without developing additional social strata? I view technology through the lens of an educator. With that said, I have come to realize that inviting my students to enter into a 1:1 environment will work best if I frame that environment with a sense of shared responsibility. Is it possible to share that mindset on a more global level? Ignatian spirituality invites us to infuse a work vision into the efforts we contribute in our communities, nation, and world. This vision focuses upon making choices based upon our values.

What I see when look at technology in my life: I see validity in the arguments posed by Friedman and Florida. I’m not prepared to abandon all of the technology that I use at home and in my classroom. I also appreciate the differences global technology has made, especially in the areas of research and general communication. Are there times when I feel overwhelmed by the amount of technology that surrounds me? Yes, and this is especially true when I come face to face with the unit of AI pictured below or my smart phone intuitively tells me where I’m heading and how long the trip will take without me asking. Nick Bostrom‘s recommendation makes sense to me. It will be worth the effort for us to think ahead and anticipate the positives and negatives that accompany advances in technology with an eye to value-based choices.

Published by Just call me Nan.

A musician/educator who is sustained by the love of a great family and wonderful friends. Lover of peace and animals.

5 thoughts on “Location, location, location…

  1. Thank you for the thoughtful discussion of how technology can either support or overwhelm. As we think through Bostrom’s ideas on values-based approaches to technology deployment in general and AI and MI in particular, I wonder if doing so on the context of Florida’s concerns about concentration is a good place to start. We who have access to the “toys” (tablets, smart phones, high-speed internet, etc.) have a better chance of being both blessed and stressed by technology; those who have less or none of those things don’t have a choice. Should an attempt to level the playing field be a first step?

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    1. I agree with you in that having the “toys” is quite the double-edged sword. When it comes to trying to temper the technological climate in my classroom, I just feel as if I’m running to catch a train that has already left the station. If our children are enrolled in schools that are 1:1 environments, I don’t know how we can further level the playing fields. That is, of course, unless we limit the number and type of devices they can have with them at any given time. Just today, I had to “relieve” one of my 6th graders of his smart watch. It was a lovely device that was severely distracting him. He certainly doesn’t need to have that watch (he already has a smart phone and Chrome Book). I guess I’m just frustrated by the social expectations that our students are experiencing. It isn’t just an issue of absolutely needing a new smart watch. In order to keep our schools and the students enrolled in them competitive, we expect them to have technology at their fingertips. Too much technology? I think so. Just viewing Friedman and Florida’s articles through the lens of a K-12 educator, I can’t help but think we’re experiencing this conundrum because we insist on the “toys.” Would it be great if we could find the solution to this within our 831 community?

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      1. I am currently reading an excellent book by Derek Bruff called INTENTIONAL TECH. Through 7 principles, he discusses the mindful use of technology in education, including times when no tech is the right tech, or other times when the right tech is Post-It notes rather than some tablet app. But he also weaves in creative uses of tech, such as Google Maps/Google Earth with literature assignments.

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      2. Thank you for passing that on. Intentionality has become a byword in my classroom and is a significant portion of my DIP. I don’t want my students to become dependent upon technology, even though I know it does have its benefits. They were more than a bit surprised when I told them that we would be spending significant time working in an “unplugged” environment.

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