Technology is just a tool! I have overheard or been a part of many conversations with teachers, parents, and community members where the statement has been made that they don’t like technology and think it is doing more damage than good on the up and coming generation of kids. A considerable part of my job is to look at and evaluate numerous technologies and one of the first questions I ask is how can this technology help. Just like you could use a rock to hammer a nail into a piece of wood, a hammer will make the job much more manageable. Technology is there to help us in achieving a goal or completing a task.
As a techie I always love bringing new gadgets into my home that makes life easier and one of the typical statements I hear is that it is making you lazy. I see it very differently, if I can cut down the time a very generic task takes that gives me more time to spend with family, friends, or doing another more productive task. The other piece to this is often the amount of time it would take me to flip on a light switch or change a channel on my TV, it takes about the same amount of time to do it using one of my voice assistants. So in reality, it is not saving any time but instead just providing an alternative way of completing the task. Any new technology at first will be utilized more often and possibly to the point of the usage becoming obsessive. Over time, however, once that newness has worn off I have observed in myself and others that it just becomes a tool we use when it is needed. One great example I use when talking with students is my smartphone. I tell them you could take my smartphone away from me right now and life would go on. My smartphone is a tool that allows me to accomplish numerous tasks faster and more efficiently then I would be able if I didn’t have one. I would still be able to accomplish those same tasks using other tools but the smartphone saves me a lot of time so I can focus that saved time in other areas of more importance.
Addictions to technology can be a result of numerous factors. I do want to be clear, it doesn’t matter if it is social networking, a specific game, or a type of device, these programs, devices, and apps are being made so people will stay on them as long as possible. You need to be aware of the pitfalls of what makes these technologies addictive and as teachers and parents, it is our job to teach others about these tricks that designers use in their technologies. In my job as a public school band teacher, I work with the same students from 5th-grade until they graduate so I have many opportunities to have some deep conversations with my students. Since I am also the school tech guy we often talk about technology and I find many students are very good at recognizing these traits in technology that tries to keep them using it for as long as possible.
So how did this post go from technology being a tool to it being addictive? Once you start to view technology as a tool you will find your usage of it will often change. You might decide to play a game for a little while and that game is a tool that lets you have fun or that you are using your laptop to create a video for school, it is just a tool. It is not all there is to life but can help you live a more productive life if you keep it in perspective. As teachers and parents, we need to educate our kids and students that technology is just a tool to help you live a more productive and enjoyable life. It does not by its nature make your life more productive and enjoyable but sits in the background to what is truly important.