Nostalgia for a (mostly) technology-free existence

Yesterday’s post was a recap of a workshop I recently attended entitled “iPads in Kindergarten-and More!”  It can be found here.  It may be helpful to read that post first if you are not familiar with the iPad program implemented in the Auburn School District.

Below are my personal thoughts about it.

To me, it is unnecessary to provide young students with something so technologically advanced.  Not because I feel that they can’t understand the device; I have already witnessed two and three year olds deftly navigate apps on their parents’ iPads (who knows, the iPads may have belonged to the toddlers).  When I try to analyze my reluctance to get on board with this idea, I guess it boils down to technological nostalgia.  By that, I mean that I am nostalgic for the technology (or lack thereof) that was available during my own childhood (from the late 80’s all through the 90’s).

When I was in third grade, aside from typing in computer class, playing computer games at home (Magic School Bus lands on Mars, anyone?) and watching Wishbone on TV my life was pretty much free from technology.

No ebooks for this pup!
(Photo from: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Wishbone)

I grew up in Maine, so my summers were spent reading outside and exploring in the woods.  In the winter, I would go sledding with my cousin and race inside afterward for cookies and hot chocolate.  During my growing up years, there was a good balance between real life and virtual life.

By the time I was in middle school, computers were a bigger part of life.  I remember my friends begging me to get AIM so we could chat after school about everything that had already happened at school (I declined).  I remember looking up my favorite bands online and perusing their websites.  The Internet was quickly growing, but (at least to my 8th grade self) it did not seem ubiquitous.  It felt like an optional form of communication, not a required one.  Some bands had their own website, some did not.

My involvement with technology increased dramatically when I started college.  Facebook went country-wide for university students during my freshman year and although it became my favorite time waster when papers were due, it was still relatively self-contained.  At first, only people with a university email address could sign up for Facebook, so for me it became an extension of my college life, not my life as a whole.  I used it to stay in touch with friends who had gone to school out of state, or remind a classmate about tomorrow’s assignment.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

In today’s world, however, almost everyone is on Facebook and it has become a huge presence in our lives.  Most everyone I know has a smartphone, iPad, or other such device so they can be connected at all times.  People can now choose to make their virtual lives the dominant one.

Please don’t misunderstand, I am by no means a Luddite.  I believe that advancements in technology over the past few years have allowed us to grow in ways that were once thought impossible.  For example, without modern technology, I would not have my blog to use as a platform to complain to the world about how technology is taking over our lives :P.

However, I believe we can still make the decisions about the level of involvement of technology, and for me, giving iPads to kindergarteners (young, inquisitive people who are excited about learning about the real world) is a sign that technology is taking over.

In the evolutionary progression of technology we started with desktops, moved to laptops, and now tablets and smartphones seem to be the most advanced species available.  What’s next?  I’m sure many people have read about a potential next step—instead of using your iPhone to look something up, you’ll be able to google with your brain.

Our culture seems to worship technology and is always ready for the next advancement.  I guess my question is:  have we considered the consequences?  Of course, I understand that students need to learn how to use technology to enrich their lives as well as to keep up in current society.  I’m just questioning the long-term costs of giving 5 years olds iPads in kindergarten…can’t we give them a couple of years to just “be” without technology?

Obviously, this is just my opinion (based mostly on my growing up years, which I remember fondly, as I’m sure most of us do).  What do you think?  Will people become more and more engaged (and perhaps dependent on) technology as time wears on?  Will we have the chance to make this choice ourselves individually or will society get swept away by technology, leaving anyone who refuses to conform behind?

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