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. 


Anonymous said...

WEll Cuz, I would say that you have grabbed the world of technology by preverbial horns and are using it very creatively with your interesting and thought provoking blog.
I think the Wardorf School have a valid point but unfortunately we are not programmed to go backwards. Once you let the genie out of the bottle you can't put it back.
Luke is 15yrs now and I have been a believer that technology, X box and the like fuel his ADHD. They give him the opportunity to operate in a world that moves as fast as he does. Input, input, input. When he comes off it all the real world is boring. It just can't compete. Em XX

Mary said...

I like your genie metaphor--clever and apt. So I guess that leaves it up to us (parents and teachers) to guide kids to use it in moderation and when possible to use it as thinking tool rather than mere entertainment. I also suspect you are right about technology fueling ADHD. As more and more kids are diagnosed with ADHD (probably to some degree a result of said technology use), I keep waiting to hear about the advantages to having your mind wired that way. And also I wonder when and how the education system will adapt to teaching a different kind of brain. Should we merely accommodate that sort of fast paced craving, or should we attempt to fix it? Is ADHD really a problem to be fixed or just a different way of interacting with world? Does it have to be disability?

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