May 25, 2011

Technology Redefines the Norm

Back in the days of when we were in school, getting caught passing notes in class resulted in detention, and using the phone during a meal was unheard of. But flash forward only a few years later, and we notice a huge shift in how our culture has changed through the influence of technology. Many cultural practices which were once considered to be rude and inappropriate are now today's social norm.

We've discussed multiple times in previous posts of how the Internet, social media, and new tech gadgets have influenced both our work and personal lives. Even children as young as two years old are tech savvy and found themselves addicted to the iPad as much as many of us.

photo via: NY Times

Last year, we mentioned universities beginning to incorporate the iPad and digital books with their course studies. And since then, technology continues to be more integrated in the education system as some elementary schools and high schools are beginning to use Twitter-like technology to enhance classroom discussion. Instead of raising one's hand to speak up in class, if a student has a question, he or she is encouraged to type their comment on a monitored microblogging platform. What is known as the "backchannel" in their classes, the real-time digital streams allow students to comment, pose questions, and voice opinions without ever having to speak out loud.

video via: YouTube

Purdue University, in Indiana, also has their own "backchannel" system called the "Hot Seat." Allowing students to post comments or questions, one of the professors, Sugato Chakravarty, uses the system during lectures to pause and answer the most popular inquiries. Stating that it used to be difficult for students to speak up in class, Chakravarty states, "It's clear to me that absent this kind of social media interaction, there are things students think about that normally they'd never say."

A discussion on Today's Meet from Erin Olson's English Class in
 Sioux Rapids, Iowa about a poem called "To the Lady"
caption and photo via: NY Times

While this may raise some eyebrows, there are enough teachers and students supporting this new system to make it worth considering. Kate Weber, a fourth grade teacher in Exira, Iowa states, "Kids are much quicker at stuff than we are. They can really multitask. They have hypertext minds." Rather than being distracted, Weber and many other teachers claim that these online tools help many of their students become more engaged with class discussions, allowing more students to be heard and giving everyone a voice, albeit on screen.

photo via: NY Times

In class or not, our phones, iPads, and laptops seem to be with us at all times. It has become socially acceptable, and a natural instinct for many, to periodically check our smart phones several times throughout the day. With our Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and who knows how many other apps downloaded on our phone or iPad, we always feel the need to be updated with what's going on. And if it's not getting the latest news, there are game apps that are equally, if not more, addictive to keep us up all night.

As we are always "connected" and available one way or another, checking our phones during a one-on-one conversation or a group business meeting has become justifiable for most. And although many may argue that we need to learn how to tune out more often,  editor at TechCrunch argues that social media and smart phones have enhanced our eating experiences, stating that apps spark new conversations and encourage more personal connection.

photo via: NY Times

In America, the typical family night activity is no longer about sharing a movie or playing a board game. More and more, families are sharing a common space, but separately absorbed into a completely different activity through technology. Moms and dads are surfing the web on their separate laptops or iPads, kids are playing video games on the computer or T.V., and no one is talking. The family room has become more of an entertainment hub where families may be together, but not really together.

There are two sides to this matter as some argue that this results in less emotional connection between family members, while others state that separate play time avoids forced together-ness and conversations form more organically.

Overall, whether we like it our not, technology has assimilated into all aspects of our society. We have become so dependent on our gadgets and the constant connection, that how we interact with friends, families, and peers are no longer the same. And while it has helped in some ways, as mentioned before, we always believe that there needs to be a balance. Although texting or checking messages on our phones during a meal or cup of coffee is a habit for some, our personal view is that it should not be accepted. Call us passé if you will, but we still ask house guests to put their phones aside and not answer calls during the meal.

Because no matter how cool or easy it is to communicate between screens, personal face time with friends, family, and peers are irreplaceable and part of what makes us human. After all, human interaction wouldn't really be human if it was always connected to something else, posted online, or tied to a machine, or would it?

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree! Yes technology has its place, giving us the ability to communicate through innovative platforms; however, it shouldn't replace our innate ability to communicate with each other.


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