Using Technology to Humanize

I have been an advocate of technology in education for a long time. But I have been an advocate of “people” for my entire career.

People > Technology

The reason I bring this up is that I have seen a lot of pushback on the idea of “personalized learning” (this is a fascinating article on the topic by Anya Kamenetz) and how it is leading our kids to be focused on a screen. I will have to admit that I have seen this in schools and it is disheartening. If we lose our connection with the people in our buildings, I want no part of technology.

As the world becomes more “digital,” it is crucial we become more “human.” This is imperative.

But technology can actually be used to build face-to-face relationships, not limit them. This quote from one of my favorite books, “Humanize” is something that I hope we continue to hold on to in our perspective:

The discussion of “screen time” is one that has been around for a while but there is a changing belief system on this as screens are everywhere. If you are reading this, you are most likely doing so from a screen. Knowing this, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has changed their guidelines for screen time. Here are some of their suggestions:

Screen time shouldn’t always be alone time. Co-view, co-play and co-engage with your children when they are using screens — it encourages social interactions, bonding, and learning. Play a video game with your kids. It’s a good way to demonstrate good sportsmanship and gaming etiquette. Watch a show with them; you will have the opportunity to introduce and share your own life experiences and perspectives, and guidance. Don’t just monitor children online, interact with them — you can understand what they are doing and be a part of it.”

The shift here is that an hour of screen time alone is not as valuable as an hour in front of a screen where meaningful conversations and interactions can happen. Yes, the time in front of a screen is the same, but human interaction is an opportunity to delve deep into human connection and learning.

Other suggestions of note that focus on connecting on a personal level through the use of technology:

  • Be a good role model.
  • Teach and model kindness and good manners online. Because children are great mimics, limit your own media use. In fact, you’ll be more available for and connected with your children if you’re interacting, hugging and playing with them rather than simply staring at a screen.
  • Know the value of face-to-face communication.
  • Very young children learn best through two-way communication. Engaging in back-and-forth “talk time” is critical for language development. Conversations can be face-to-face or, if necessary, by video chat with a traveling parent or far-away grandparent. Research has shown that it’s that “back-and-forth conversation” that improves language skills — much more so than “passive” listening or one-way interaction with a screen.

When we look at how we are using technology, we have to ask:

  1. Is the way we are using technology building connections or severing them?
  2. Is this fostering deep learning as well as critical thought and creation, or promoting surface-level thinking?
  3. Are we modeling our learning, balance, and human connection through our use of technology so we can effectively guide our students?

Technology accelerates everything. Good practice and bad practice. Deep learning is crucial, but our human relationships are what will guarantee schools will be relevant for much longer than we can imagine.

Innovative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Consultant. I also like dogs.