Does technology hurt more than it helps?

One of the topics brought up in a reading this week is that people are using the web so much that their brane is acting like it is the web and jumps from task to task. As crazy as this may sound I notice that I do this sometimes. I will be working on something or reading a paper/article and then I’ll quickly jump to another task to come back shortly thereafter. Now usually this happens after I’ve been working on one topic for about an hour or so and am having trouble concentrating.

A second topic that was brought up was that people prefer to read short statements and that this is due to the web training them to work that way. I wonder if some these ‘new’ methods of reading and parsing through information is not due to too much web use, but instead because of how busy people are today? I know for me I don’t typically sit down and read a full article or paper unless I find the information intriguing or somehow helpful to what I do on a daily basis and this is purely due to the amount of time I am able to devote to activities like these. If I had more time and was not constrained by tight deadlines on activities I would be more prone to spending more time actively reading and not scanning documents.

Now there are individuals that are scared that not just the web is changing us, but new technologies in general (computers, cell phones, automobiles, etc.) which to me is a bit crazy considering how useful those technologies are and how much they improve our quality of life. I do understand that there are a few cases of new technologies that are not useful or do have a ‘negative’ effect. For example, look at what Jaron Lanier had to say:

It is certainly true that particular technologies can make you stupid. Casinos, dive bars, celebrity tabloids, crack cocaine…

But, at the same time there are more new technologies that are super helpful. I mean look at Google Docs, WordPress, even different Microsoft and Apple programs. There are new technologies being developed every day that allow for individuals to complete tasks quicker and easier than before and these new technologies should not be ignored and dismissed as making people dumber. Instead they should be looked at as a tool to free up individuals for working on new and more engaging ideas.

Now, I do need to say that I firmly believe that there is a time and place to use technology. For example, I find Google extremely helpful when I’m somewhere and am trying to remember a random fact, name, or phrase but just cannot fully remember it. Also, just saying, being able to order food or use self-checkouts is pretty nifty for those that don’t enjoy having to deal with annoying or employees that just don’t care. However surfing Facebook or Twitter while in class is not a proper place to be using new technology.

Everyone deals with technology different, there are those that love and embrace it and there are those that adjust their tin foil hat and scoff. It is important for educators to realize that their are these differences and try to find a common ground that works for everyone. Thus, forcing everyone to Tweet their homework assignments may not be an ideal middle ground just like completely removing or limiting the use of phones/computers is not an ideal middle ground. So finding a good balance is key. Also, that balance is not going to be something that is set and not touched for the rest of your career. As technology advances the balance point has to be re-evaluated and changed as necessary.