Should We Be Afraid of Technology? A History of Learning on the Fly.

Should We Be Afraid of Technology? A History of Learning on the Fly.
Contributed By

Chris Cooper

Curriculum Technology Trainer, Germantown Municipal School District

Should We Be Afraid of Technology? A History of Learning on the Fly.

Posted in Community | July 21, 2017

A few months ago, I saw the movie Screenagers with a group of teachers. The movie is eye-opening. It lays out the difficulties we ALL (young and old) have with setting limits and dealing with the temptations of always being connected to the internet.

Learn how to help all stakeholders overcome fear of 1:1 programs by attending Chris Cooper's session at NEXT 2017

On my way home, I was thinking about how some people set limits by reducing the amount of time with their devices. Parents take away their children’s devices in an attempt to encourage appropriate use, and some teachers in the room said they even take it away from themselves, such as at bedtime. They aren't sure how to help their children (or themselves) learn appropriate use. They restrict rather than regulate.

A History of Learning to Use with Technology Responsibly on the Fly

As I told the teachers, we are all learning how to regulate and set limits. The always-connected-device-of-choice for most of us is the smartphone.

Smartphones have only been in the mainstream for 10 years. The internet, as we know it, is only a few years older. That is a very small amount of time for our society to adapt and learn to manage a completely new way of life.

I wondered if we had similar problems adjusting to other advancements. I have seen depictions of early homes during the time when electricity was still relatively new, and wires were run all over the place. Plugs were combined into multi-outlets in a way that would make Clark Griswold jealous. It took some time, but people eventually learned safety standards.

The auto industry is another, even more relevant, example of society adapting to new technology. From 1909 to 1916, the number of automobiles on the road increased from 200,000 to 2.25 million.

Similarly, the number of iPhones (which began the smartphone movement) sold in 2007 was 1.4 million. In 2015, there were an estimated 190 million smartphone users in the US! We have gone from almost no one having a smartphone in 2007 to virtually everyone having a smartphone in 2017. It seems the growth rate of always-connected devices is outpacing our ability to set social norms regarding the use of those devices.

Bill Loomis, with The Detroit News, published an article entitled, 1900–1930: The Years of Driving Dangerously, about the evolution of society during the rise of the automobile industry in Detroit. It took us about 30 years to get to the point where we realized we needed to educate drivers about safety and “rules of the road.”

Let that sink in a moment. The first 30 years were spent cleaning up accident after accident and passing crazy laws that were mostly designed to hold back the use of that technology instead of safely advancing it. Their problem was they couldn't see the benefits of the technology of their day, and they could only compare it to what they knew (horse and buggy). Speed limits were based on how fast a horse could run.

Should We Be Afraid of Technology in Education—Particularly Going 1:1?

Similar to most rapid technological advancements in our history, there are people who are concerned about implementing technology in education. Some parents and educators reject the notion that we should be incorporating more technologies into the learning process, because it is happening so fast, and they can’t see its future benefits or how to regulate it.

Some of them say we shouldn't give connected devices to teenagers because it's too dangerous. Some say they don't need laptops in class and at home.

Like most technologies that came before, connected devices and the internet will take time to regulate and establish norms of use. 10 years is not enough time to do that. Using our past as an example, the answer would be to educate and create appropriate norms of use as quickly as possible while not trying to stifle its advancement.

100 years after the introduction of the automobile, we couldn't live the same way without them. 100 years from now, how will society look back on the early days of being connected? We'll probably wonder why we spent so much time playing angry birds and arguing politics, instead of putting these amazing tools to better use!

Join me at the Schoology Next 2017 Conference as we dive into this topic even more and discuss strategies for Overcoming Stakeholder Fear in 1-to-1.

Join Chris's Session


About Chris Cooper's Session

Overcoming Stakeholder Fear of 1-to-1

Provide your stakeholders with historical perspective regarding the rise of technology and 1:1 classrooms. This session will look at past examples of how our society has adopted new technologies and use that perspective to think realistically about ways to manage technology safely in schools. The session will include tips for classroom management, 1:1 policies, and parenting advice in the digital age.

In this session you'll learn: 

  • A historical perspective about the speed and extent at which technology has grown.
  • An understanding of why it is so hard for parents and teachers to manage students who are always connected.
  • Tips on how to advocate for a 1:1 environment.
  • Common mistakes in regulating the use of technology.
  • Tips for helping students develop good habits in the use of technology.
  • Tips for parents on managing devices at home.


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