Do we need technology to be connected? A critique of the so called “digital age”

John Taylor Gatto, in his famous polemic “Against School” (http://www.wesjones.com/gatto1.htm), articulated his experience of over 25 years teaching in New York City’s public school system and the failures the system has for fostering genuine curiosity for students. Yet no where in his essay does he claim that a need for more technology is needed for children to obtain this curiosity. One fundamental problem that we can flesh out of obtaining information from digital sources is not only authenticity, but the over-abundance of information. Ibn Khaldun, the famous historian of the rise-and-fall narrative of societies, once said to the effect that in his times, the proliferation of books was causing people to learn less. The well known axiom “less is more” can and should beĀ applied to the concept of connected learning. Indeed one could claim that the narrative of the “digital age” leads to more information does not necessarily lead to the same conclusion that more learning occurs. This known experiential reality by most people was probably best articulated in Nicholas Carr’s piece “Is Google Making Us Stupid” (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/) where Carr argues how Internet jumping from one site to another has altered the brains capacity for depth. While we may have accumulated more information, it is a very shallow information at best. I would finally like to push-back somewhat against this assumed “digital age” that we all seemed to have ushered into; as a historian, the naming of “epochs” “eras” and “moments” is problematic because they imply a universal narrative that is actually contextual. Often the contextual masquerades as a universal. The videos presented here on connected learning assume to much weight as to what technology can afford us without observing the negativity that can come around with new technologies. But more problematically, it assumes that connected learning can happen the world over. Access to running water is a far reality let alone the internet in the world, and the wealth gap is only widening in the very societies that promise universal (actually national) education for all. Are we really living in a digital age? Or are the privileged living in it? I in no way am a luddite (someone who hates all new forms of technology), but I would echo Gatto, Carr and Khaldun that too much of anything is a bad thing; and that with new forms of technology, there are always people who lose out.

See also (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W86P_FX6PdI)