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Posts Tagged ‘appropriate technology’


I count myself among the early champions of the internet who believed that the highest potential for Internet technology would be for sharing information, advancing personal prosperity, creating liberty for all. That’s one of the reasons why I started a BBS in 1990 and later an ISP. Our aspirations for the internet were probably similar to those that championed creation of public libraries and public schools.

We proponents of appropriate technology have always known that there could be a dark side to the Internet. The Web could:

  • Become a tool for censorship and propaganda.
  • Lead to addictive behavior, productivity decline, and ill-health.

There is increasing evidence of these negatives. Google, Facebook and others have been lax in protecting user privacy. Nation states (E.G. China) are openly censoring content, and academics worldwide are expressing increasing concern for the effects of “excessive Internet use”, in particular social media. They say that social media use is having negative consequences for the health of children.

A report out of Great Britain this week, Social networking: teachers blame Facebook and Twitter for pupils’ poor grades, heaps blame for poor student achievement on excessive use of social media. The report was issued by a private outdoor recreation business, so the conclusions are somewhat suspect. But, even more damning and illuminating is a fresh New York Times video, Fast Times at Woodside High. It documents the battle taking place for the attention and concentration of young minds.

Part of the ongoing education debate in the US focuses on the failure of the ‘industrial training” methodology still in use in our schools and the increasing dependence of young minds on instant gratification. Social media has the potential to be too distracting from other important activity. Simply stated, it’s hard to find time for learning core academic subjects when a student is otherwise engaged sending up to 900 text messages a day or playing video games 30-50 hours a week. Yes, social media helps develop other types of skills, but at what cost? When is there time to do homework, eat, sleep, and spend some recreation time outdoors?

Until recently, I’ve not been an alarmist about the future of technology and student achievement. Tech can truly enhance learning. I’ve worked as a high school technology coordinator; have been a strong proponent for erasing the digital divide, and promoted social media as a tool for learning and building communities of interest. But now I’m starting to have more serious doubts about social media, all the while increasingly using it myself. Maybe I’m becoming the curmudgeon I never wanted to be.

Non Sequitur courtesy of Universal Uclick. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

I’m worried. Heavy technology use is affecting our brains. No, I’m not talking about the risk of ionizing radiation from cell phones. (The National Institute of Health is still engaged in studies on that subject until 2014.) I do fear that obsessive social media use is affecting our safety and the nation’s capacity to meet the challenges of the future. How many car drivers have you seen distracted talking or texting on their phones. I see about one a day.

The Fast Times…video does a good job of portraying the behavioral and cultural risks of too much tech. The subject really warrants our attention … after I check my e-mail, send my Twitter tweet about this post and update my website, blog, and Facebook page, and answer .. (excuse me, I’ll be back to finish this post after I text my friend back).

Related Websites: The Side Effects of Media

 

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Bob Pauls writes for his company, Des Moines Tech Support, about appropriate technology and computers in business, education, and community development. You can follow Bob on Twitter @desmoinestech.  Bob’s e-mail address is bpauls@dsmtechsupport.com

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