Coming to Grips with the Way Technology Shapes Our World

Submitted a year ago
Created by
Brad Choyt
At my school's recent Grandparents Day, I noted that relationships will always matter more than the arrival of the latest electronic device in the lives of our students. For the people in the audience, I hoped the comparison would highlight the long-term impact that family and friendships have over the latest technology, despite its incredible allure. I warned our students that even the most desirable gadget will soon go the way of the eight-track tape and Walkman. “Remember those?” I asked the grandparents in attendance. “Well, your grandchildren don’t!” Important connections, however, can last a lifetime and, even as they shift and change, they inform and inspire our experiences in the world.

As rational as this argument may seem, it still feels as though parents and teachers are fighting an uphill battle. So as Apple unveils its redesigned iPhone and Amazon’s Alexa sits on our bedside table, I may be less excited than most. Honestly, it is hard to want to invest in new smartphones and spend time talking to these devices or even interacting through social networks when these kinds of technologies might be doing everything from illegally influencing elections to fracturing the ability of both adults and children to stay focused.

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I’m not suggesting we go back to a time and age without technology. To the contrary. I recognize that despite legitimate concerns about its role in our world, tech will likely improve many facets of our lives. For example, self-driving cars could make our roads safer and provide greater mobility for the elderly and people with disabilities. But it should also be noted that this same technology will likely put millions of people out of work and even the best economists don’t know what the long-term impact will be.

But this is clear: technology companies are seeking greater profits, a goal they achieve by making their products an increasingly important part of our lives. And it is equally clear that given this motivation, there is no going back. Schools now need to equip students with the tools they need to intelligently use the tools these companies are continually creating and telling us we need. Those tools include the ability to nurture real-world relationships over time. The ability to think and react with empathy. The capacity to weave awareness of data, detail, and intuition to devise solutions that cross disciplines and draw on the strengths of every member of a group. 

This is no easy task. But at the rate technology is impacting our world, it might be one of the most important one our generation of parents and educators face.

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