Our Opinion: Maintaining balace amid fast-paced technology

The role of technology in education is a timely topic broached by two local educators.

We’d like to add some thoughts and invite comments from readers.

“Schools must adapt to needs of tech-savvy ‘Net gen’” was the headline for a Local Perspective on Sunday by contributing columnist David Wilson, an assistant principal at Jefferson City High School.

Net gen refers to the 30-and-younger generation that has grown up and is comfortable with digital technology — computers, smart phones, social media, etc.

Wilson referenced a book, “Grown Up Digital,” by Don Tapscott and commented on four recommendations. Schools are advised to:

• Replace the traditional, lecture-dominated approach with interactive lessons.

• Become more relevant, meaningful, engaging and interesting.

• Emphasize student discovery.

• Plan learning around digital opportunities.

Wilson wrote: “Technology will be embedded throughout the workplace of the future, so it only makes sense students use it throughout their learning experience.”

In Wednesday’s Your Opinion forum, a Catholic educator largely concurred, but offered her own perspective.

Sister Barbara Neist, coordinator of curriculum and instruction at Helias Catholic High School, referenced two other books, then raised the question of whether “our increasing dependence on digital technology is harming our ability to think, to read deeply.”

She described the mission of Catholic educators to nurture “the spiritual as well as the academic in the lives of students.”

We see no conflict in these two viewpoints. We do, however, agree with Sister Neist’s caution to maintain what she characterized as a “balanced perspective.”

Whenever we hear the term “social media” we wonder if “social” is an appropriate description of digital interaction.

Texting, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media increasingly are being substituted for face-to-face communication.

We consider face-to-face communication to be social, in the best sense of the word, because being together promotes courtesy, civility and discourse.

Digital messaging, by contrast, involves a disconnect created by physical separation. Sending a message constitutes only half of the process of communication, which also involved receiving. The solitary act of keying in a message makes it is easier to be rude, to snipe and to bully.

Modern technology has created a brave new world of digital interaction — a world that could send us reeling if we do not maintain a balanced perspective.

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