In today’s society, the use of technology has changed how we communicate with others on a daily basis. In the final three sections of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, Sherry Turkle explained how technology changed the way students learned, how businesses handled daily operations, how apps took the place of face-to-face communication and how people miss important details when using apps or machines instead of old-fashioned communication.
While growing up, I did not think about how important technology was to my generation. I knew that I liked using the Internet, getting information quickly and communicating with my friends on different platforms after school. Looking back, as a child, I used websites like Bebo, Yahoo Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger to communicate with my friends outside of school On Bebo, I talked with my friends, updated my profile and made new friends, all of the things Turkle mentions that we spend too much time doing. Thus, as I have gotten older and realized how important technology serves my generation and many others, it scares me to think about a life without the use of apps and innovative technology. On the other hand, however, it scares me to think about a society or world where technology controls every aspect in how we communicate with others.
From an education perspective, Turkle talked about the importance of live lectures. She mentions that “you share a bit of road with those around you and you come to understand how a group thinks” when coming to class in “real time” (141). Thinking about this example, I talked with a professor about the use of technology in helping kids learn in the classroom today. I asked the professor for her take on technology when teaching kids and did she think technology alone could teach kids how to add, subtract, multiply or divide for example.
She said, “no”. She went on to say using additional techniques (technology or web-based software or platforms) should be used to enhance those skills for students. The web-based programs could not be the sole basis for students to understand important concepts.
Listening to her response, I remembered how my elementary school offered computer classes as additional training for us to engage and enhance the skills we learned in the classroom. I did not take computer classes at my school but I wanted to. I thought it was simply a cool thing to do between the ages of five and 10. At the time, I was not thinking about how the classes would have enhanced my knowledge of certain skills. More importantly, I did not fathom the idea that innovative technology would dominate society over the next 10-plus years.
Here is what is missing when one talks about the use of technology alone: meaningful conversation.
Again, from an education perspective, technology and web-based applications aid and help students to learn better. Teachers or professors, however, must provide meaningful conversation as to why things exist in the way that they do. For example, if a student does not understand why five plus five equals 10, he or she might not understand the concept of why five multiplied twice will equal 10. While software and technology give you fun and easy ways to understand concepts, it is still the role of teachers to provide the explanation and detail with things work in the scope that they do.
Turkle describes this idea in the book very well. “These days, teaching by conversation is talked as crucial (after all, the stated goal of putting content online in the flipped classroom is to have more dynamic in-class conversations)” (242). While this refers more to having classes in real time, the overall argument is that the teacher-to-student and student-to-student conversations are very important. These “actual” conversations allow us to make sense of how we know and understand things. “Real people have real concerns and interests” (243).
Overall, not just from an education standpoint, it is important that we take the extra step to have meaningful conversations in the classroom and in the workplace with our bosses and colleagues. From these conversations, we will truly gain a sense for how technology should be used to help us learn new things and build a world that allows us to better understand each other.