There is a long list of the negative effects of the internet and technology on our society and on our children, particularly the effects on children in the classrooms. Certainly, I include myself among those who had a predominantly negative view of the changes in the way children operate these days in and out of the classroom. The positive or negative effects of technology and the internet can be debated, and indeed some of the aspects of both the internet and technology can be viewed at the same time as both positives and negatives. A partial and random listing of some of the negative effects includes:
- The internet/technology makes children intellectually lazy. They have all that information instantly available.
- The internet/technology makes us impatient – we have access to what we want when we want it wherever we are.
- Children have forgotten grammar and spelling because of internet/technology (think about the proliferation of ‘text-speak’ in our lives).
- Our ability to write effectively has declined because of the informal nature of social media.
- The internet/technology has changed the quality of interpersonal interactions – not only the way we interact with each other personally (face-to-face), but how much we interact with each other personally.
- The internet/technology has changed how much time we spend in the ‘real’ world because we are always in front of the screen.
It is not my intention in this post to examine the quality (positive or negative) of the effects of the internet/technology. Rather, I wanted to examine our choice of specific words when we discuss the effects of technology and the internet and the implications of those choices. The above list is my summary of some of the issues raised, but in a majority of the conversations I have had as well as in most of the online sites I have visited, the choice of words is important and telling. “Technology makes us lazy/impatient.” “Technology creates children who have forgotten spelling and grammar.” “Technology has made us more obese because we are always in front of screens.” When we discuss these issues, we often choose (consciously or not) words that shift the blame to an external agent – technology. We relegate ourselves to the role of passive victim, the one being acted upon, rather than as active agents who are free to allow (or not) these changes. We shift the responsibility to technology and refuse to acknowledge our complicity.
It can be argued that this is merely a question of semantics and that I am missing the point. We have changed because of technology. It would be negligent to minimize the importance of and the qualitative effects of the internet and technology in our society and classrooms. I would argue, however, that it is equally important to examine the manner in which we think about technology and to shift from language that blames the internet and technology for the changes we see, for the changes that we allow. Technology is, after all, merely a tool. How or when we use that tool – or whether use the tool at all – is ultimately our choice, our responsibility.