Better Technology = A Better Life?

The holidays are here. What better way to show your loved ones that you love them than to buy them the newest and best technology available today?

Best Buy’s Black Friday sale boasts the following on their website today…

iPad Air starting at $319.99

iPod Touch (64GB) $249.99

iPhone 6 $0 down (an asterisk leads a close reader to the terms and conditions)

Apple MacBook Air (Latest Model) $899.99 (You save $100)

On Thursday night, I went to a parent information session about the new PARCC assessment and the new technology being used in the schools to support the transition to online testing. The presentation and workshops were given by the superintendent, other administrators, and teachers in the district. The majority of the information presented came from the website I referred to on my last post http://www.parcconline.org. The information was mostly in line with what I had heard before, with a few exceptions.  But there was an overwhelming sense that the new technology is exciting and the way of the future. (Though to be fair, the superintendent did add towards the end of the evening that there is no replacement for reading to your children and having them read to you every night.)

Arguments in favor of technology are everywhere these days. And companies like Best Buy, Apple, and Google reap mega profits from this prevailing belief. School districts are allocating more and more of their budgets to acquiring physical technology like Smart Boards and Chrome Books. But this isn’t the only way companies are turning profits from the technology craze. School districts are now purchasing rights to typing programs to use with students as young as third grade (and most likely even younger once the K-2 PARCC hits the ground next year).

They also pay big bucks for test prep programs like Study Island. Parents are shelling out money too $1.99 at a time on educational Apps on their phones, iPads and also for the phones and iPads they purchase for their kids, presumably because they are sick of sharing. Some companies and website offer their services for free at first only to charge later once they have a solid user base. And a trip down the toy aisle shows a large variety of technology-based learning tools for kids as young as babies, if you include to infant proof cover for iPhones and iPads.

But for a moment, if we take a step back from all of the excitement, is there another way to look at this obsession with technology? Is it really improving our lives as much as these companies want and depend on us to believe? Has Facebook and other social networking made our relationships better? Has technology been making our students brighter and more prepared to face a world plagued by problems that have spiraled out of control?  Has online banking and shopping made our lives easier? Is the world a better place now that we are so incredibly technologically advanced?

The answers to these questions are not cut and dry, yes or no. I am not suggesting that we all pile up our technology and burn them or throw them into the ocean. That would cause its own problems. (But as a side note, think about all of the waste rapidly changing technology creates. Ever try to throw away a computer? It has to go to a special place, where hopefully it is recycled, but who really knows.)

What I am suggesting is for people to just pause and think twice when the newest technology or  a new use for an existing form of technology is suggested.

Think about when your email was hacked.

Think about when your computer got a virus or stopped working suddenly.

Think about when your credit card or debit card had chargers on it from an unknown party, and you had to have a hold put on your account until a new card arrived.

Think about the carpal tunnel you feel in your fingers or wrists sometimes when you text too much.

Think about the school shootings that speak to a generation of kids with decreased empathy and ability to form meaningful social connections.

Think about how much less time is spent outdoors in nature, which is being destroyed at an alarming rate.

Think about the terrorist organizations that can spread hate and recruit members worldwide through the internet.

Just stop and think.

The Common Core Standards and PARCC claim to be champions for critical thinking, but  how can we expect to raise and educate critical thinkers, if we ourselves do not think critically.  Before instituting daily typing practice for your little ones to ensure that they achieve high test scores or logging them into a website sent home from the school to drill math facts or reading comprehension, just think of what you are not making time for each night. I know I am stretched to the limit every night between homework, cleaning out lunch boxes, going through folders, signing papers, marking events on my crowded calendar, making dinner, baths, and laundry. What about time to go to the library, eat dinner together, read stories, go to the playground, paint a picture, or have a dance party?

The world is a scary place, but I think that the best way to prepare our children for the future has absolutely nothing to do with technology, more rigorous standards, or a test.

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