My 17-year-old can text faster than I can type. She has more technology in her purse than I had in my whole house when I was her age.
But even as a teen, I knew not to push a truck with a subcompact car, and could tell you whether it was better to buy a pint of something for $1 or a quart for $1.50.
As evidenced by the dent in the hood of the Mini Cooper and the fact that we spent an afternoon reviewing liquid measurements, she apparently can’t…and she’s a straight A student with acceptance letters from 14 colleges.
Sometimes I worry technology is replacing common sense.
And I’m not alone.
In a review of what he characterized the “electronic collision-avoidance nannies” so popular on high-end cars, Wired’s Matthew Phenix asks:
Is it merely alarmist hyperbole to suggest that technology is creeping in where common sense and driving skill used to live? Do I feel safer because an acronym assures me that my car is looking out for me? Do I feel safer knowing other drivers’ cars are doing the things — like checking mirrors and applying enough pressure to the brake pedal — they should be doing themselves? Not really.
Technology makes it easy to find information. But like the UPS driver who goes unrecognized without his brown uniform, the information is confined to a limited context.
The key is to transform information to understanding. That requires thinking, a skill technology has made all but obsolete.
Every year, my children bring home a questionnaire from the teacher. The newer and less experienced the teacher, the greater the number of questions. But one of the questions is always the same. “What do you want your child to accomplish this year?”
Most parents, in the hyper-competitive suburban New York City area where I live, will write comprehensive answers that invariably involve Advanced Placement and honors courses. My answer, in contrast, is always short and always the same.
I just want my kids to learn to think.
Scientist Bill Buxton puts it like this: Since technology is changing so fast, it is far more important to develop our ability to think, learn and problem solve, than to master Microsoft Office. Sure, you can develop these skills using computers. But personally, I think our time is generally much better spent studying music, history or even hockey.
Buxton is Canadian, which explains the hockey reference. But hockey aside, he makes some interesting points.
The risk of technology making things too easy is the gradual loss of our ability to think—the way most kids have lost the ability to make change for a small purchase in their heads.
Think of it as the ability to connect-the-dots, and relate the consequences of A to B. Think of it as being able to function when the electric grid fails and the batteries in all the calculators die. Think of it as whatever you want.