Learning to be connected and learning to be separate from each other are both critical skills for students. As educators, and as parents, we need to find spaces for both. Dennis Shirley, in ‘The Fourth Way of technology and change’ (2011), is clear about the role of technology for young people. “Schools can help our young to be separate from and yet connected with others in these transient, unpredictable, and ultimately ephemeral journeys we call our lives.” (Shirley, 2011, p. 207).
I live in a place where it is very easy to be connected any time; any place; using any device. In Calgary, as in most North American cities, there are very few barriers to my access to information.
I also spend a lot of time in a very disconnected place. In Trout Lake, B.C., in the year 1988, disconnected meant physically distant from any highway with no electricity, no phone and, of course, no internet. We were a long way from anywhere and communication, other than face-to-face, was nearly impossible. We did not know what was happening in Calgary, or the rest of the world and they did not know what was happening with us. There was a peaceful pace to this existence.
Now in 2012, we have made the climb out of that isolation. Our physical location has not changed but the paved highway is now just 2 kilometres away and via high-speed Internet we have access to the internet and voice and video communication. We know what is happening in Calgary; we know what is happening around the world. We converse with our daughter in Italy while â€˜touringâ€™ her around the cabin to share the latest renovations. She shares her latest adventures with us. We are now surrounded by the beeps and bells of news updates, emails arriving and video calls starting. That peaceful pace has changed.
I wonder what has been gained and what has been lost. Not only has my connectivity changed, my context has changed â€“ drastically.Â My lifestyle is a product of this connected world.Â We have changed; our contexts have changed; our expectations have changed.
- Is there a way to separate the advantages and disadvantages of these changes?
- Can we track how our lives have improved/changed due to technology over the past twenty-five years?
Being connected to the world we inhabit includes both physical and digital forms of experience, learning and communication. Â We do not have to choose one over the other; 1988 or 2012. AsÂ John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas implore in A New Culture of Learning (2011), â€œthe point is to embrace what we donâ€™t know, come up with better questions about it, and continue asking those questions in order to learn more and more.â€ (ch. 2) We must create a woven blend of the best of the past and the ever-changing opportunities of today so we can move confidently into the future.
Shirley, D. (2011). The fourth way of technology and change. Journal of Educational Change,Â 12, 187-209.
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011).Â A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for aÂ world of constant change. [Kindle Edition]. doi: 10.4236/ce.2012.33057
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