Position Paper

 

             “‘Technology’ is any tool or medium that helps people accomplish tasks or produce products more efficiently, and computers are only the latest in a long line of innovations- going back to axes and fire- that have changed the way humans interact with the world and each other.”(Healy, 31) Technology is an ever-changing idea. Technology is constantly evolving throughout time. In this day and age computers are what many refer to as technology. However, technology goes beyond the use of computers. Just like with all things there are positive as well as negative points. What needs to be decided is whether or not the positive outweighs the negative.

Negative Aspects of Technology

            There are several negative points to consider. Technology has the reputation of having a negative affect on health. “In the United States, children are getting less fit by the year, and obesity rates among the young are increasing even more rapidly among their parents. Teachers report they find many of today’s children overly stressed and anxious, and they blame lack of exercise for some cases of hyperactive behavior. Rushed lifestyles, pressure to do well in school, too many ‘lessons’, organized competitive sports, and scheduled activities add to their stress.”(Healy, 121) Marshall McLuhan also alluded to this idea in his book, The Essential McLuchan. Technology or rather “screen time” has also blamed for the increasing vision problems in our society. However, “Dr. Raymond Neutro at the California Department of Health Services says, ‘There’s a lot of controversy about this, so how careful are you going to be?” (Healy, 119)

            Another negative aspect of technology is that it requires change. The change process is also known as a ‘paradigm shift’. A paradigm transforms a group into a profession or, at least a discipline.” (Kuhn, 19) Kuhn discusses the new generation of a paradigm and how members converting to the new paradigm cause there to be a division of those involved. Education is at that point today. The ‘older’ generation is clinging to their view of how education should be while the new generation is looking trying to see where education is headed. This causes problems for all those involved and sometimes the real reason for education is lost in the shuffle. Kuhn sums this up by saying, “Those unwilling or unable to accommodate their work to it must proceed in isolation or attach themselves to some other group.” (Kuhn, 18)

Positive Aspects of Technology

            There are many positive aspects of the use of technology. Educationally only the tip of the iceberg has been discovered. Through time many more ideas will be uncovered and utilized. Just a few of the positive aspects of technology are: more updated research, research with more ease, word processing, internet, presentations with ease, the ability for parents to access school information, communication ease, and the list can go on and on. Today’s schools are filled with books, magazines, telephones, voice mailboxes, copy machines, printers, and computers. These are all examples of technology. Society appreciates the office staff being equipped with telephones, fax machines, voice mail, and copy machines. These are tools that assist the office staff in running the office more efficiently. This in turn keeps parents and school visitors happy because it is more convenient for them. Society expects the library to be filled with books, magazines, newspapers, and TV’s and VCR’s for student and teacher use. Society would look down upon a facility that did not have a copy machine for teachers and staff to make copies of handouts, study guides, tests and much more. All of these devices have come about by incorporating technology. Computers bring us to a new level. Through the use of computers we are now able to do so much more. Computers allow students to research information that is current. Encyclopedias are now available on cd-rom for student use. Encyclopedias are also available online for school systems to access for little or no charge. This allows students to have the most updated research information to do their research projects. The computer also allows teachers and schools, by way of the Internet, to post homework, handouts, current events, and much more online for parents and students to access away from school. These are just a few of the benefits that technology grants upon education.

Remedies

Marshall McLuhan hits the nail on the head when he says, “We are too prone to make technological instruments the scapegoats for the sins of those who wield them. The products of modern science are not in themselves good or bad; it is the way they are used that determine their value.”(McLuhan, 154) Society is always looking to put the blame on someone or something and technology is the scapegoat today. Ideally, society should take responsibility for using the tools of technology as just that … a tool. Technology is being given the responsibility then being blamed for how it is used. McLuhan refers to children of today’s generation as a ‘TV child’. “Today’s child is growing up absurd because he is suspended between two worlds and two value systems, neither of which incline him to maturity because he belongs wholly to neither but exists in a hybrid limbo on=f constantly conflicting values.” (McLuhan, 250) Hoe can technology be blamed for how society uses it?

Many things such as TV, radio, telephone, etc. are not always used as they were designed, so whose fault is that? Is it the TV’s fault that immoral shows are broadcast? Is it the telephone’s fault that telemarketers harass people daily? Is it the radio’s fault that stations play immoral songs on it? No, the TV, radio, and telephone are just tools that society allows to transmit information designed by humans. The human race has allowed the inappropriate material to be broadcast. Good and bad are prevalent in anything and is everywhere. As a parent, teacher, or responsible adult in society it is your responsibility to make sure the tools available are being used in a manner deemed appropriate. As a parent if a TV show contains inappropriate material then don’t let your child watch the show then blame the TV for your child learning an unacceptable word or idea. If an Internet site inappropriate take measure to prevent your child from being able to view it. Take the time to teach your child right from wrong so that he/she can make the right decision when faced with the choice. Monitor what your child is exposed to and them don’t shy away from the topic. Provide them with age appropriate knowledge to be able to handle themselves, rather than blame a mechanical instrument for “corrupting them”.

Children in today’s society are less fit and more obese. “In the United States, children are getting less fit by the year, and obesity rates among the young are increasing even more rapidly among their parents. Teachers report they find many of today’s children overly stressed and anxious, and they blame lack of exercise for some cases of hyperactive behavior. Rushed lifestyles, pressure to do well in school, too many ‘lessons’, organized competitive sports, and scheduled activities add to their stress.” (Healy, 121) There we go making another excuse. At home children are allowed to sit around all day, watch TV and play video games. DON’T LET THEM!!! Set up parameters in the home and limit screen time. Encourage the children to go outside and play. Then go out and play with the children. Contrary to what ‘society’ or others think these ‘lessons’ are beneficial to the students. How is a child supposed to learn how to play a game, understand a game, and be a good sport in a game or life without a ‘lesson’?  If any classroom teacher decided not to teach a ‘lesson’ he/she would be in trouble. Yet, a physical education teacher teaching a lesson is too stressful for our children. This is echoed throughout many school systems today. Children need to be tutored so they are pulled out of their electives and physical education. What kind of message is being sent to the student? They are being programmed that physical education is not important, yet technology is being blamed for children being less fit and obese.

Jane Healy does an excellent job of portraying the role of technology in society.

“Connecting or Disconnecting”

            “It is hot in the computer room this May morning in central Pennsylvania, but no one seems to notice. At each machine three heads bend earnestly over the keyboard, and today gray and white heads mingle with those of the children. Several ‘students” occupy wheelchairs. I am observing the eagerly anticipated “Elder-Kids Connection,” when nine- and ten-year-olds entertain their new friends from a nearby retirement home. Each elder faces a computer, with student teachers flanking each side.

            ‘I’ll never get it,’ sighs a crinkly-eyed grandmother. ‘These old hands and this old brain just can’t…’

            ‘Here, I’ll help you.’ A young hand guides hers. ‘It’s OK, you’ll get it, you’re doing great! Everyone has trouble the first time.’

            A robust lady across the room is telling an enthralled audience about her early life in this part of Pennsylvania. ‘Well, when I was in school, if you were bad the teacher put a pointed hat on you and made you sit in the corner!’ She chuckles to the delighted horror of her young partners. ‘These days that teacher’s probably get sued.’

            Farther down the line, a small boy strokes the hand of an elderly man, who smiles broadly as he puts his other arm around the child’s shoulder.

            ‘Wow!’ whispers the associate from the retirement home. ‘That fellow hasn’t smiled for months, and look at him. He’s grinning from ear to ear.’

            The children’s teacher has tears in her eyes as she watches a lady in a wheelchair exchanging a gentle hug with two youngsters. They have been doing mental math problems; the kids have discovered their guest is faster than they are at this form of ‘computing’. The teacher draws me aside. ‘I can’t believe it. Some of these kids act barley human most of the time, but they’re the best ones.’

            Judy Ulrich, technology coordinator for the district, agrees. ‘By the end of the day last year we were all in tears. The kids are studying Pennsylvania history, and these elders have so much to contribute. First they meet and the kids interview them about the history of the area. Then they help the elders compose a short personal history on the computers. But the best thing is just seeing the responses. Even with troubled kids, their compassionate human side just comes out in buckets and barrels.’

            Ever the practical observer, I ask, ‘Of course, you wouldn’t have to use computers to get this kind of interaction, would you?’

            ‘Certainly not. But the elders love it, and the kids are so proud of being teachers. Now, if they get the home up on e-mail, we’re going to start writing to each other.’”(Healy, 169-170)

            There are positive and negative aspects of technology, but society is ultimately responsible for how it is used. Instead of placing the blame for the bad on a mechanical instrument how about stepping back and looking at how technology can be used for good then making a plan to use it appropriately and responsibly.

 

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Healy, Jane M. Failure to Connect- How Computers Affect Our Children’s Minds- and

            What We Can Do About It. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1999.

 

Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago, IL: The University

            Of Chicago Press, 1996.

 

McLuhan, Marshall. Essential McLuhan. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1995.

 

Postman, Neil. Technopoly. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1992.