During my training as a high school teacher, one of the things that my professors laboured on again and again was need for the modern day teacher to think hard about the ways that we can use technology as an instrument to engage our students in their learning. As such, we were taught to use lower level mediums like PowerPoint, Prezi, and Electric Slide to present our information, medium level mediums like chat rooms and online forums, to higher level mediums like websites, videos, and the like.
I think those things are all really well and good, although some educational theorists continue to doubt the educational effectiveness of these instruments. Nonetheless, I think the principle of ‘repeated communication through as many means and channels as possible’ still stands, and so teachers really need to move towards that direction especially when the whole of society has moved into a digital world.
That being said, and as much value as technology has on education, one of the things I wish my lecturers did emphasise was the impact that technology has in shaping the human being. Because you see, when we communicate through technology (and whenever we use technology for that matter), we’re not just communicating information. We’re also communicating a message. And in a fast paced world, I think one of the messages that we’re communicating through technological mediums is: information is king. Not knowledge, not wisdom, but information. So we teach students to quickly scan for information, cut and paste it, and make it their own – all of this without teaching them to properly process information in order to turn it into knowledge, which can subsequently be turned into wisdom, and even better, into practice.
So even from a young age, students are taught to glance through information (which is interesting because when I was starting this blog off, one of the tips I learnt was to use BIG HEADINGS IN BOLD so people can scan through to see whether this post or article is worth their time). To be sure, this is a good skill to possess. Not everything on the internet is worth reading word for word. But I wonder, how is the way that we’re learning shaping our habits? If fast-paced information grabbing is the way to go, how is that shaping our concept of relationships? Is it thus of little surprise that long-cultivated friendships (and I’m not even speaking about romantic relationships) are not longer as valued as they used to be? For sure, that might be valued; but how many people genuinely invest in them? Many of us want quick fixes today. So we walk away from friendships when there are disagreements rather than really digging out heels in to resolve conflict. We say things like ‘I don’t need this’ and just move on, hoping to find another group of friends that we’ll fit in as soon as possible. Of course, there are times when things just don’t work out amongst friends. But how often have we spent time genuinely investing in relationships before we throw in the towel? And that’s just only one example.
This sort of fast-paced living has permeated all of our lives – more than we probably even realise. So it’s always worth taking a step back to think ‘alright, is the way that I’m living really loving God and loving my neighbour?’ Because sometimes, fast-paced living isn’t always godly.
In any case, I write all this as a response and recommendation to a recent podcast I heard released by the Center for Public Theology where Dr Owen Strachan interacts with Andrew Sullivan’s recent article I Used to Be a Human Being. It was really thought provoking for me, especially since I struggled to sit down for 11 minutes to listen to it because my attention span has been conditioned to searching for new information every 3-5 minutes. So I was living exactly what Strachan was speaking about and what Sullivan was writing about. I don’t struggle with this when I read a book and it’s interesting that the medium we use can really shape our learning habits. But that’s a post for another day. I encourage you to check out both the podcast and article, and I hope it’s a good opportunity for you to pause and reflect on how technology is shaping your life.
*The featured image I used for this post was taken at a recent youth camp where I spoke at. We had lots of fun spending time together in the Word, games, and corporate worship. What was interesting is that the camp site where we spent our time had very limited mobile phone reception, and the only place we could get some sort of connection was under this flag pole. And everyday, throughout the day, I’d spot youths standing under this pole trying to stay connected to the world via Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and the like. Of course, I’m guilty of doing the same thing. But it’s fascinating that there’s such a hunger to remain connected in the digital world, almost to a point where we believe that if we don’t exist in the digital world then we don’t exist at all. However, is it a hunger? Or is it an addiction? Or is it both?