On December 19, 2013, I packed up my family, including the dog and dove, and headed out for a grand adventure. You see, as an education technologist, my every moment in the workplace is learning about technology, inventing stuff based from technology, exploring the potential of technology I have and the technology I want, breaking up with technology, and reassuring the non-techies, or noobs as they are affectionately(?) known, that technology won’t bite. I love technology. I also hate technology. It’s like the feeling one gets when they have a crush on someone who doesn’t even know they exist, and let’s face it, they’re really kind of jerks to the folks around them anyway. You just can’t help but swoon, and yet realize the relationship wouldn’t ever last. Technology is most definitely my boyfriend, and I’d been told by colleagues that perhaps technology and I needed a little distance from each other- a week-long break up, if you will.
As we arrived at the primitive cabin and unpacked, we settled in for our moment of bonding and togetherness without the world of technology. Immediately the dove was chasing the dog, the child was chasing the dove, the husband was chasing the lot of them, and I missed my iPad. I think I have about fifty billion books on my iPad. I packed a book knowing I would wish to read, but suddenly felt that any other of the billions of books on my iPad would be a better option than the one I brought. Then a thought occurred to me. If the books are on my iPad, then they are also on my iPhone sat in a cabin kitchen drawer, which also happens to house my work email, life email, home security, social media, etc. I didn’t succumb. I wanted to. More so, I wanted to show my daughter that we do not need technology to live happily, because it seemed to me that my colleagues believed I was struggling with this. Believe it or not, I impose a technology off rule on school nights to ensure that my family regularly tunes out, and my daughter was beginning to question its logic. I hoped that by seeing her parents not needing or wanting technology, Isabella would agree that life exists beyond a device.
The week was a bit rough. I hate Monopoly and Life. I hate Solitaire. I love ghost stories, and running like a maniac in the woods to taste the falling snow. I missed knowing beyond my own personal life, but also cherished the opportunity to focus on the here and now. We returned home, I believe, with bitter-sweet feelings. No one was purposefully left behind, at least. The reflection of the experience was wonderful, and in my mind when I think upon it, it seems to build up more and more as a bit of a wondrous experience being without technology as a family for nearly a week. I would add though, that it also provided me time to reflect on how wondrous life is with my family and technology. Allow me to share what I have learned from the experience:
Are we really as addicted as we are told we are?
Often in my position I’m told that I’m addicted because I carry a device, or know about technology. I’m one of “those” people. I would argue that we are at a global turning point or paradigm shift in technology today. Make no mistake about it, the cotton gin, printing press, automobile, and beer were revolutionary pieces of technology during their time that are second nature, if not archaic afterthoughts today. The iPad will come to be thought of this as well. Are you addicted because you eat machine picked food, read printed materials, or drink beer? Should you instead harvest your own food by hand, return to the chisel and stone, and drink only water? I am scoffed at for using technology by people who say they need to smell books, and couldn’t imagine life without pen and paper. There are still calligraphers in the world, and sometimes I wonder, should the book smelling pencil-pushers be scoffed at for not using an ink well? What would the excuse for using a modern pencil be? I will continue to use the devices that make ease of life more accessible, whether these devices be a pencil or an iPhone. We quickly forget the technology shoulders that our new devices stand on. I for one, love my Jeep, and find horses to be too stubborn to ride. I use technology because it is part of my life, like my Jeep, and not because it is my life.
Is technology as bad as everyone seems to believe?
I use technology a lot. There is little question as to the extent that it penetrates my life. You do too. You just don’t know it. It is really amazing to think that the internet is 42 years old. Often I’m challenged by people who believe that I cannot live without technology, and the day will come when I will have to. I have an amazing app for growing a garden, and have an app where my daughter can track and monitor the crops we grew in our garden to learn about photosynthesis and the water cycle. It doesn’t make our tomatoes dangerous that an app taught us how to grow them. Technology wasn’t created to dominate life, it was made to accommodate life. My bank is online, and yours is too. In fact, if you personally choose not to partake in banking apps, bill paying apps, utility apps, school apps, etc., then the only person not invested or participating in your online life, is you. The banks, utilities, and schools, do not keep a personal paper file just for you because you fear technology. You are online, and you should know it and how to protect yourself, the same way you had to learn protection in the streets and neighborhoods of your life.
I’m questioned about what we will do when technology fades or shuts down and we are left without the internet or technology. My answer is simple. If that day should come, your bank will be the last thought on your mind, because the dams, trains, planes, health, and basic sanitation of the world that runs on technology will shut down with it. We still flush toilets and run water that are dependent on technology, and as such, I feel pretty safe reading the newspaper on my iPad. If you fear technology will disappear, then fear for your very life in general. Otherwise, live your life in a healthy manner, with technology as a benefit and ally, and not a fear or hindrance.
How do we become unafraid of technology?
Think of the last time you considered your own load in life. Think of what can make it easier, what makes it difficult, and what you can do about it. I had to understand what overload was to me and what made me allow it in my life. First, recognizing my own capacity was important. There is not a lot of information out there about human limitations, so become very aware for yourself what those limits are (Swensen, 2003). Of those limits, consider the options that might help you address them. When I recognize my limits, I immediately take to Google to see if anyone shares my pain, and what they’ve done about it. Most of the time, there’s a technology miracle out there for me to use, sometimes I have to think of and create a technology aid, and what isn’t there or is beyond my scope requires elbow grease and a call for aid from my colleagues. Technology can’t do everything, it can only meet you half way.
Ultimately, I believe how we view technology will reflect on how we view the future, because the two are not separated. Technology can be the greatest ally for educators as the foot soldiers of democracy. Enjoy your time off from it, and enjoy the time you have it. Either way, technology will move us into a future that we choose.
Swenson, R. (2003). Overcoming overload. Family Practice Management, 10(3), 76.