Take some time to watch an interesting video, Are We Becoming Bots, presented by tech ethicist David Ryan Polgar. In his video Polgar describes how in today’s digital age, each person is connected to many, many other people. Too many connections can lead individuals to send “botified” responses — meaning that we sometimes behave more like robots and less like people. “Botified” behavior occurs because of the digital world challenges that arise when we try to accommodate way too many online connections. Continue reading
In our connected world unfamiliar activities make adults worry about kids, and violent and exploitative events, some connected to the digital world, make us fear for our children’s safety. This past week two events, a 13-year-old’s ruthless murder that was associated with online app interactions and a Wall Street Journal article, Cyberthieves Have a New Target: Children, made many of us wonder, once again, whether the digital world is degrading the quality of our lives.
For me the week reinforced the importance of parents understanding what their children are up to on digital devices. It’s a serious responsibility, it requires enormous time and energy, and we cannot hire outside experts to do it for us. The work requires every parenting skill that we’ve ever developed and more, and if you are not up to it you need to consult a parent education organization, such as the Parenting Encouragement Program (PEP) in my area, that offers training to parents. Continue reading
These days we have so much debate about whether or not digital devices are decreasing our face-to-face communication and our quality of life.
If you are interested in this debate, check out a fascinating January 17, 2014 article in the New York Times Magazine. In Technology Is Not Driving Us Apart, writer Mark Oppenheimer describes how Rutgers University Professor Keith Hampton and his associates filmed the human interactions at Bryant Park — a New York City park just behind the New York Public Library — to discover how people interact in public spaces. In the process, researchers wanted to learn more about how today’s digital devices affect those interactions.
Professor Hampton based his work on the research of William H. Whyte, a sociologist who filmed people interacting in urban public spaces to learn more about their behavior and what they do. Whyte did his filming in the late 1960s and 1970s, calling it the Street Life Project. Studying the films, Whyte tried to discern what people liked to do, how they conversed, how long those conversations lasted and in what locations.
Hampton’s research, up to the point of filming in Bryant Park, focused on how today’s connected world affects people, and by studying communities he came out with a different perspective than many other of today’s university researchers. In his New York Times article Oppenheimer reports: Continue reading
Just when you feel good about your digital world learning curve, a new device operating system brings a serious case of update-time discomfort. While none of us ever stops learning, sometimes these periods of relearning tasks that, in theory, we already know pretty well can be daunting.
I work with educational technology in a school, where updates are part of the job. Yet each time I need to relearn routine tasks I get a healthy reminder that when it comes to digital skill problem-solving and tinkering, I remain a digital immigrant — always a bit slower at figuring out new things than most of my digitally native students. [See note at the end of this post.]
A few nights ago, when I read the stories about the new iOS7 for my iPhone, I resolved to wait a week or two and let any glitches work themselves out. But the next afternoon, Julian, a middle school student, stopped by my technology office asking questions about the cool new iOS7 system that he was downloading — that very minute. I did not know the answers to his questions.
Aha, I thought. Some of my students may need my help. So the next morning at 5:30, I downloaded the new operating system on my iPhone. An hour later with a somewhat different looking device, I fumbled around, located my Audible account, and listened to my latest recorded book as I drove to school — while patting myself on the back. I can manage the new iOS7 — not to mention change.
Then I arrived at school, got out of the car, and could not turn off my book. For more than five minutes I stood in the parking lot tapping at vaguely familiar iPhone icons and finally managed to turn it off. But in the process I turned on some bluegrass music. I had no idea where that music was coming from, because as far as I know, bluegrass does not reside on my iPhone.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that whenever a new technology feature comes into vogue, children and adolescents come into possession of digital skills in want of copious adult tutelage.
Or at least this should be universally acknowledged.
Just now, in my part of the world, we are in the midst of an Instagram beauty contest phase. Interestingly, however, parents and educators who have spent the past 10 years connected in any way to the teen-tween digital world will recognize that, at a minimum, this is actually beauty contest 3.0.
I recall two other student beauty contest episodes, each occurring on a different digital playground. Initially they appeared on make-your-own websites, then on MySpace. Now we have Instagram.
As I said the other morning to a concerned mom, behaviors get recycled each time a neat new whiz-bang digital opportunity emerges. Typical kid behavior gets paired with a powerful app, but mostly without benefit of that adult tutelage referred to above. Also, kids love contests so it’s natural that the idea comes up.
Children are growing up in two worlds. Families and schools now have two childhood environments to supervise — face-to-face and the digital — and kids are learning and playing in two places, irrevocably intertwined. School and home guidance acclimate children mostly to the face-to-face world, assuming that the lessons automatically carry over to digital endeavors. They don’t.