Monday’s Musing: Does Technology Kill Creativity?

Monday, November 28, 2011

           So you have a bunch of rosemary in your fridge, do you a) use the internet to find a recipe, b) let it die, c) fall back on your old rosemary standby, or d) look in your pantry and throw something together.  I wish my answer was d, but more and more it’s a (or maybe b).  Why think of something myself when I can just let others do it for me?  Why risk culinary disaster when I can find customer rated reviews or top chef created recipes?  Why create when I can borrow?
            And so it begins…more and more I find myself borrowing recipes, borrowing lesson plans, and yes, borrowing ideas.  I don’t need to be creative.  I don’t need to problem solve.  I don’t need to think. All the answers to every question are at my fingertips.  And I’m lazy. I’m impatient. I lack confidence...Technology, ahh!
            I believe in problem solving, I believe in creativity, and I believe in critical thinking.  But I also believe that technology makes it easy to gloss over these skills.  My generation spent our formative years without the Internet, and we learned to use the library to find answers and when we couldn’t we were left to our own devices.
            What about my kids?  They’ll never know life without the Internet, without all the answers.  Will they learn to problem solve, create, and think critically?  Or will they passively click for the answers?  I live in a county where every child in sixth through twelfth grade has a laptop.  Rumor has it the elementary school kids are getting i-pads.  Cool, yes.  Smart, maybe not.  I read an article in the New York Times that claims that the technology experts in Silicon Valley send their kids to Waldorf schools because they see technology a distraction for learning and thinking.
            As a former teacher in a technology heavy school system and a current teacher at a technology university, I realize that technology can be a platform for creativity.  I realize that students can use technology to create art, music, video, and communication.  I realize that students who study technology use problem solving skills to fix and build platforms.  But is this how technology is being implemented or is it just technology for the sake of technology?  I’ve heard educators argue that the bells and whistles entertain students and thus make them more engaged in the learning process, but I haven’t found mastery any higher when I use bells and whistles and often it’s lower because the bells and whistles distract.  Maybe the Waldorf school has a point, maybe for younger children technology is a distraction.  Maybe for younger children it encourages educators to focus on drill and practice rather than creativity, problem solving, and critical thinking.  Maybe we should keep our children unplugged for as long as we can.

Confession:  I’m the mother who swore her kids wouldn’t watch t.v. until they were three.  My two year old is blissfully watching Diego even while I type this.  I don’t parent in a vacuum, I just think in one.