I see my elementary school classroom. I don’t know exactly which year, but it doesn’t matter. It is the 1950s. The rooms are all similar. Large spaces, high ceilings, a wall of windows with beige shades tilted at different angles, the room filled with straight rows of square wooden desks with a shelf underneath for books and papers and a wooden chair under each desk. A blackboard covers almost the entire front wall. Posters hang all around - maps, pictures of animals and people, class worksheets…
What is missing?
Computers. Headphones. Electronic gadgets.
I did not use a computer until grad school in the 1980s.
Today classrooms still contain colorful posters, mobiles hang from the ceiling, desks and tables (no longer made of wood) fill the room. Cubicles with computers line a wall.
I have incorporated technology into my life. I sit on a couch in a coffee shop writing on my Mac. My iPhone lies next to me. I wonder how I would find places without a GPS…or rendezvous with a friend at the last minute without a cell phone…or answer a question during a heated discussion without instant access to Google or Wikipedia.
I have come a long way, baby, metaphorically speaking.
Kids nowadays grow up tech-savvy, viewing gadgets from infancy, fingering them as toddlers, using them easily as they play games on the devices, take pictures, text, talk...in comparison to younger folks, I am technologically impaired.
I know what I need to know to do what I want to do.
The younger generation loves reading books on an electronic device. I enjoy holding a real book, a physical object.
Connectedness created the flexibility of working from home. On the other hand being connected has drawbacks. Companies expect employees to be available hours after they would otherwise be ‘off the clock’. Yet isolated home-based work has limitations. IBM is bringing employees back into the corporate building, setting regular work hours, with expectations that increased people-to-people contact will enhance productivity.
I love the fact that we can travel anywhere and read favorite newspapers and magazines anytime, everyplace, and stay in contact with work, friends and family. People today enjoy the opportunity of deciding where to live, no longer waiting until retirement to move to a dream location.
What happens when super-connected souls – my grandkids come to mind – become unconnected? On vacation Mom and Dad may encourage limited connectedness, and gadget-addicts somehow survive. However if a storm knocks out cell and wifi service howls of despair pierce the air from gadget-geeks of all ages, and people find themselves lost (metaphorically speaking, of course).
I get annoyed at people texting and doing who knows what on their devices in restaurants, not paying attention to the people they presumably came to socialize with. Kids of various ages text across the room rather than talk to each other. Will the art of verbal and written communication soon be lost skills, replaced by abbreviated text and emojis?
Technology offers an important advantage to seniors and others with limited mobility. Unable to leave home, folks can maintain contact with friends and family scattered everywhere. Isolation due to physical restrictions is minimized thanks to technology.
Change is inevitable and life marches on. All change offers advantages and disadvantages, and we cope as best we can.