I was definitely impressed by the fast and flashy world of all this new technology, and I left the workshop feeling committed to trying out some of this technology in my classroom. Yet, the workshop also raised a number of questions in my mind. The basic premise of technology seems to be that faster is always better. My colleagues and I were impressed by how we could use this new technology to quickly access and share lots of information as a class -- no more slow and deliberate writing on whiteboards. Is faster always better though? My brain needs time to process and incubate ideas, and I suspect that many of my students need that kind of time too. Also, I value the slow and deliberate process of reflection that is encouraged by reading and writing. Will a technological world allow for that kind of unhurried reflection? And will a fast and flashy visual world diminish the quality of human interaction? Will it cause some sort of yet-un-named anxiety within students? How are students going to cope in a world where they are literally deluged by information all the time?
I have one other big question as a result of this workshop. Many of the teachers at the workshop kept talking about the need for us to "prepare students for this hi-tech future." I fully believe that students have to be comfortable with technology, and I agree that a large part of our jobs is to prepare them for the future. However, I think that, as educators,we have a complex challenge on our plates: we need to simultaneously prepare students for the future and help them retain a connection to their pasts. Educational institutions serve as a connector between generations; we help students understand the wisdom accumulated over time. Schools are, by nature, conservative institutions that change slowly and gradually so that we are able to stay connected to our pasts even while we get ready for the future. I, for one, am all for more gradual shifts. These radical and sudden upheavals are exciting but scary.
Nevertheless, I feel committed to learning more about technology use in the classroom, and my goals for this summer involve preparing my own keynote presentations (with music and effects) and designing assessments that involve a variety of media. This year, I made a few short powerpoint presentations, showed some You Tube clips to my classes, and had the kids do a couple of presentations that involved technology. Next year, I’m going to do much more.
Yet, I am, at the end of the day, a book lover. And I like the slow and unhurried pace of a book, and I, for one, love long and sustained written analyses. Despite all the new technology, the human experience itself hasn’t changed: we are born, we grow up, we love, we suffer, we experience joy and sorrow, we grow old, we get sick, and eventually we die. That hasn’t changed. The essence of our needs hasn’t changed. And since we are still mortals, we can’t possibly sustain this frenetic pace of life. We need the natural world, we need downtime, we need quiet time, and we need human contact. We have to remember our innate needs, which have not quite caught up with all this rapid change.