Over the summer I spoke at a national teacher conference about the dangers of technology. It was more of a how-to-keep-your-students-safe kind of thing, and it went over pretty well (it was the second time I'd spoken on this topic, and they called after hearing about my first presentation, which was more local). The local folks want me back again this year, but this time they want me to speak about the use of technology in the learning process.
There are two books I read recently that relate to this topic--but not in a good way. In fact, I think I made a big mistake in reading them one right after the other. Add to that this new speaking engagement I'm booked for, and on the inside of my head I'm playing out the end of the world . . . or the beginning of The Matrix.
The first book is The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerline, which is the first look at ten years of statistiocal data about how technology and the Internet are affecting living and learning methods. The bad news, it seems, is that we're reading less, studying less, and retaining less. The Internet (and how we use it) is having a serious effect on how we use our brains, and that's having a severe impact on learning--meaning that our approach to education in the technological age may be too antiquated or out of sync.
The second book is Feed by M. T. Anderson, a fiction novel set in a future where kids have neural implants installed at birth and are on the Internet 24/7. As the characters walk around, they get pop-up ads. If they get hungry, they get food ads from local restaurants. They can look anything up any time they want. These kids educations are enhanced by something called School™, which seems as useless as the word looks.
Like I said, reading both in rapid succession was probably a bad idea, as I'm now scared to death of the future. The whole thing does beg the question, though: How do educators teach effectively in a world where technology is taking over? Is it even possible to keep reading rates up when the soon-to-be-dominant form of communication doesn't require it? Should we be throwing out current skill sets in favor of future ones? Has education, in its current form, become archaic and outdated? And what's to be done to solve that?
If you've got ideas, I'm all ears . . . .