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EDER 679 Technology & Society: Post #1 How connected do we want to be?

Filed under: EDER 679.05 September 17, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

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 ‘touring’ 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 – drastically. My lifestyle is a product of this connected world. 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.  We do not have to choose one over the other; 1988 or 2012. As John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas implore in A New Culture of Learning (2011), “the point is to embrace what we don’t know, come up with better questions about it, and continue asking those questions in order to learn more and more.” (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, 12, 187-209.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. [Kindle Edition]. doi: 10.4236/ce.2012.33057


  1. Joanna Dziewaltowski:

    Hi Carole,
    The first thing that jumped into my mind as I was reading your post is GLOBAL VILLAGE. Is it safe to assume that technology has transformed our society into this cozy place? It’s great that you can keep in touch with your daughter in Milan. My youngest brother has moved to study in Poland this month. Skype is a great help in keeping in touch.

    Even though the world has become a village, it certainly has become a fast paced one. As Thomas and Brown (2011) state in chapter two, technology is rapidly advancing, driving change at great speed. You posed a question about whether we can keep track of all the technological changes that have taken place in the last 25 years. I am wondering if anyone will know where to start to answer this question in 25 years, if we continue to change at this pace, or quicker. Thoughtful post.

    Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Seattle, WA: Create Space.

  2. Diana Logan:

    Hi Carole,

    It is interesting to consider how technology today has changed the way we play, as well as the way we learn. Learning and communicating through technology often has a playful nature to it. I’m more prone to go to my computer and research than I am to sit down and finish my marking! Skyping with a friend or family member is an informative and fun way to visit. As Thomas and Brown point out, “…play, questioning, and imagination (are) the bedrocks of our new culture of learning,” (2011, p.20).

    I agree that we need to combine the best of the past with the amazing technological advances of today. Maybe as we realize the value of both, we will achieve a better balance.

    I enjoyed your thoughtful post.

    EDER 679.05

    Thomas,D.,& Brown,J.S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Seattle, WA: Create Space.

  3. Tennille:

    I love the honesty and reflection in your post. You raise some very thoughtful questions – ones that are not easy to answer. I think we always have the ability to disconnect, at least to some degree. We just have to make the personal choice to turn off our phones, not use an app or go for a walk in the woods. We need to consciously decide to create that “woven blend” of the past and today that you describe. And that blend makes for a much richer lens to view the world through.
    I love your concluding paragraph and your chosen quotes from Thomas & Brown (2011). I look forward reading more of your thoughts as you continue to question the impact of our rapidly changing society. ~Tennille

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