May 7, 2019

“Get off your phones right now! You stare at your phone too much. Get a book out to read or go outside and play.”
–Me to my kids approximately 1,000 times in the last 8 years.

Technology Today and Yesterday

If you are a parent you can probably sympathize with me and my frustration with “phone time” of your kids. After all, when we were kids, we listened to our parents 100% of the time, did all of our homework, and saved little kittens when we weren’t volunteering to help orphans. Sound familiar? Yes, I admit that I have a tendency to glorify the “good ol’ days”…much like my parents did with me and I am sure like my grandparents did to my parents. Kids these days with their new-fangled phones looking up information on the internet, how dare they!

Here is how I looked up information when I was their age in the 1980’s.

Yes, this is the good ol’ Volume Library. The complete, authoritative account of all of the information in the world at your fingertips in one book…how convenient!

If you don’t believe me, read the front page…

This particular book was purchased by my parents in 1976 from a traveling encyclopedia salesman when I was 7 years old. My family used this as a primary resource for book reports, research papers, and other school assignments right through the 1990s. Of course, nothing changed in science, history, politics from the time the book was published and the 1990s…

Why Keep The Volume Library?

I have kept the Volume Library as a memento to remind myself that the world my kids live in is different in a lot of ways and better in some ways. The idea that you can access all of the world’s information from your phone is mind-blowing. The ease in which my kids can stay in touch with friends from different parts of the country (in my oldest daughter’s case, the world) is a good thing. Society is always in a constant state of flux…there will always be changes. How we react to the changes determine our future. Like anything in life, our generation’s “new technology” must be used in moderation while also incorporating the benefits it brings to us. Even I will not argue to go back to the “Volume Library” days when today I can search the internet for information.

Which brings me to the one skill that will always be in vogue regardless of the historical time period and “new” technology.

Being a Critical Consumer of Media

Being a critical consumer of media is one skill that transcends technology. In the 1980’s I had to determine whether the information in the encyclopedia (a media platform) was outdated or incorrect based on newer research. The same holds true today. Our schools do a disservice to our kids if they do not allow the use of phones and/or computers in their classroom. The use of technology offers a great learning opportunity to think critically about the information they find on the internet. Schools must empower their learners to be critics of the dominant media of the day. This is one skill that is as relevant today as it was in the past!

About the author 

Tom Butler, Ph.D.

I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.

  • I remember those pesky traveling encyclopedia salesman when I was young. Living in the country, a car would literally drop them off up the road and they would run from house to house in the summer selling volumes. Those books still stand proudly on a bookshelf in my mother’s study. What would take me hours to look up when I was a child, I can now ask Siri or Google to not only find the definition for, but read to me and even send it to someone else…like my kids.

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