Technology allows us to make the seemingly impossible become possible. Individuals with limited mobility use technological devices to interact and participate in the physical world. Students with cognitive disabilities use assistive technologies to help them read, write,and communicate knowledge and ideas. Assistive technologies are devices “..which substitute for or enhance the function of some physical or mental ability that is impaired.” (Kelker & Holt, 1997, p. 2). These devices help to open doors for people with disabilities to engage in activities with greater independence. Individuals without disabilities walk through those same open doors.
Technology has become an integral part of life. Whether for entertainment, social interaction, or performing daily tasks such as navigating city streets, shopping, banking, nearly every aspect of our lives is impacted by technology. Have we become too dependent in technology? According to several studies, “..people, especially members of the Connected Generation, appear to be dependent on their technology, even to the point of addiction.” (The Challenge of “Media addicted”consumers, 2011, p. 29). Is this a valid concern? Instead of persevering to overcome challenges, are students simply being afforded ‘quick fix’ accommodations through technology?
It seems that our reliance technological devices will only continue to increase, and that”… as the interface becomes more seamless — involving gestures, speech recognition, and perhaps even literal physical integration — the question of addiction will seem archaic.” (The Challenge of “Media addicted”consumers, 2011, p. 30).
As a parent, I have questioned if my own children should have iPhones and access to social media tools. While I do have concerns about addiction and over-reliance on these forms of communication, I also feel that not allowing them access would put them at a disadvantage. A study of the effects of media use on young girls suggests that”.. increased use of media was significantly associated with lower levels of self-esteem.” (Racine et al, p.752) Yet I have seen first hand how participating in digital media can also positively impact a child’s self esteem, as it provides them with a sense of belonging and acceptance with peers who use social media to build and maintain relationships.
We are all dependent on technology. The key is finding balance. As teachers and parents, we must help children to understand that technology has a purpose, a time and a place. We must teach them to make responsible decisions and help them to understand that success lies not within the technology itself. Success lies in how they choose to use technology because ultimately, their true capabilities lie within themselves.
Kelker, K. & Holt, R (April 1997) Family Guide to Assistive Technology. Retrieved from: http://www.pluk.org/Pubs/PLUK_ATguide_269K.pdf
Racine, E. F., DeBate, R. D., Gabriel, K. P., & High, R. R. (2011). The Relationship between Media Use and Psychological and Physical Assets among Third- to Fifth-Grade Girls. Journal Of School Health, 81(12), 749-755.
The Challenge of “Media-Addicted” Consumers, Employees, and Citizens. (2011). Trends Magazine, (98), 27-30.