Saturday, January 15, 2011

Digital Nation

While watching "Digital Nation", ironically enough I was instant messaging myself the points that struck me or that I found interesting. I have always been technologically inclined, I've had a twitter account for a year or so, I blogged when I went abroad to London to study abroad my junior year of undergrad and when I went to teach in South Korea post-graduation. I'm also an extremely social person, I'm chatty and outgoing and love to feel connected whether personally or via the internet. My first grade report cards detail that I'm a bright girl but overly social, I believe she told my parents if there was a mouse in the hallway running by, I'd talk to it. I've always argued to my teachers from middle school up that I could talk to my peers and learn at the same time. I told them that I was a social learner and learned through discussion and communicating, though my discussions and communication were not always pertaining to what was being taught. Thus I related to the MIT students claiming their ability to multi-task. Though once I decide to start writing my paper I usually try to stay away from distractions, it takes me a while to get there and I certainly do take breaks to check facebook, twitter, instant messager, I have to get in the zone before I can start writing a paper.

Before getting in the zone, I spend goodness knows how much time multi-tasking, looking through everything, avoiding my work until I suck it up and get to it. Now that most work is done on computers, it is hard to avoid all of the social-networking fun that exists at our very fingertips. Sherry Turkle made a brilliant point when she said after fooling around on email/calendar/networking site all day, "I haven't thought about anything hard. The point of it is to be our most creative selves, not to distract ourselves to death." I find this so true in my own life. As a nanny for twin 19 month olds, I have a sold 2-3 hours a day of glorious nap time. Recently I started reading the trilogy of books by Stieg Larsson and I got so into them that I read all three of them in one day each. Reading during nap time rather than mindlessly floating about cyberspace has been so rewarding; I in no way feel like I've done nothing with myself during my precious free time during my 10 hour work day. I often spend the whole time talking to friends online and looking at facebook or twitter. I get bored of it after about 30 minutes, but I keep doing it even though nothing is changing and it's far from interesting. It is so under-stimulating but at the same time has a certain element of addictiveness for me. I want more and more even though normally not too much is changing and I know I should be using my brain in a much more powerful way.

The same goes for the Korean students- when I taught English there all of my 3rd graders had smart phones. I couldn't believe it. When we talked about our hobbies, all of the boys and a lot of the girls told me that their favorite activity was going to the "PC-bang." I went into the PC bangs a couple of time and what the showed on the documentary was no over-exaggeration. I certainly think it is a national phenomenon to which some students are addicted. The rehabilitation camp was fascinating- that they had the children play outside, set up tents and do normal childhood things brought forth some of the worries that I have for my own children. I hope my kids play outside, feel a connection with the earth and nature as well as a connection with other human beings.

I also enjoyed the phrase "fluent in technology." I would certainly consider myself fluent in technology, I love new technology and am able to figure things out in little time at all. My mother on the other hand uses technology as a 5th or 6th language. She is seemingly hopeless in the most endearing of ways. She has an iPhone but calls me and asks me to look stuff up for her on my computer when she's out and about. She doesn't know how to install virus software on her computer and her emails are incredibly basic. That being said, she didn't grow up with any of this technology, it all came about when she was in her 30s after she was very set in her ways. I can certainly see how seasoned teachers would feel overwhelmed by what exists out there and the unfamiliarity with it all.

The last two things that struck me were the army simulator which I personally loathed and my shared worry about the ability to "power down" and have discussions and critical thinking without technology. I hated the army simulator because I don't agree with letting 13 year olds look at the experience of war as a game. War is anything but a computer game and having it be so one sided does not present the consequences and hardships that come with fighting war. I think it is a misrepresentation though I understand the Army's desire to try to effectively reach younger generations. Lastly, as much value as I see in technology and as much as I love my iPhone, kindle, laptop, ipod, etc. I also love having heartfelt, meaningful conversations beyond the realm of google, blogs, twitter and facebook, and I hope my children will share that ability and that love as well. As much as can be gained through technology, I do not want to be lost in a personal human connection.

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