(…and no, that is not why I haven’t posted anything in a while)
I have been assimilated. I have become a cyborg.
Allow me to explain…
The term Cyborg is a contraction of cybernetic organism, and basically refers to an organism that has extended or enhanced abilities due to technology. Since I am an organism, if I enhance my abilities through technology, I become a cyborg. A few months ago, I purchased an iPhone…
It really didn’t take me long to get hooked. I use it frequently throughout the day to check weather reports, look up information, use maps, perform calculations, take and share pictures and video, check email, check twitter and facebook, browse my feed reader, check my bank balance, make shopping lists, and see when the next bus is arriving. I even occasionally make phone calls with it. And that’s just the personal use stuff. I also use it in class to record events, upload snippets to Evernote, set timers, operate my computer remotely, collect data, and a host of other uses, all conveniently at my fingertips without having to sit down at a conventional computer keyboard. My ability to retrieve information, or to catalog, or record and share information has increased substantially and dramatically thanks to this technology, so I am being quite serious when I say that I have become a cyborg.
This transition also gives me a substantial insight into the perspective of my students. We talk about the disconnect between a student’s outside world and that of the classroom, but until I became a cyborg it was an academic point. Now I better understand, first hand, the feeling of accessibility smart phones provide, and the sense of disorientation when that access is removed – and I have only had my iPhone for three months! For my students who have been using this technology for a significant fraction of their lifetimes, the separation anxiety is undoubtedly much stronger. So when we instate rules banning smart phones in class we are not just hobbling our students, we are then increasing their anxiety by threatening them with punishment (or worse – confiscation!) if they violate those rules. It really must seem arbitrary and barbaric.
Like the fictional characters Hugh and 7 of 9 on Star Trek, I am quite capable of leading a disconnected life. There are times when it is necessary, and times when it is just much better to do so. I think that is the message that needs to be relayed. Without being heavy-handed, students should be encouraged periodically to perform mental and hands-on tasks without the use of technology, to help them recognize that they can function without it, so it is less stressful when they are required to do so.
We are only two years in to the second decade of this century. The degree of integration of technology into our lives with only increase, and it will do so rapidly and exponentially. And while the technology can be a temptation and a distraction, it won’t be long until K-12 education is the only place that technology is disallowed. If education has not caught up with the times by then it really will be absurd.