Technology – Balancing Dependence and Success

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.

References:

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.

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2 Responses to Technology – Balancing Dependence and Success

  1. Skye says:

    Kim, the question of whether dependence on technological devices to the point of addiction is a concern is one I consider worthy of more research. It will greatly affect those of us who use it and those of us who immerse ourselves in digital lifestyles. I am sure there are millions of differing opinions on the matter but I’m sure many of those opinions seek to find the optimal balance between digital inclusion and independence from technology to find the ideal healthy compromise.

    Your example of how you are trying to find the happy technology use medium for your own children is meaningful to me. The results from studies that show, “increased media use was significantly associated with lower levels of self-esteem and decreased commitment to physical activity” and that “media use…was negatively associated with these psychological assets” (Racine et al., 2011, p. 752) which is extremely disturbing to me. Disturbing because it doesn’t seem to be ringing the warning bells quite as loudly as I believe they should be ringing.

    With adolescents becoming more and more dependent on their technology use, and the lack of effort these individuals make to “take the time to dig into a story to learn all the fact and opinions…accepting a worldview that is fed to them” (The Challenge of “Media addicted”consumers, 2011, p. 30) how will they fully develop the critical thinking skills required to make logical connections and collaborative analysis even with educational encouragement and support? Doesn’t this leave them vulnerable to persuasive advertisements and marketing manipulation?

    References:

    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.

  2. ttallerico says:

    I loved your comment regarding AT, “(t)hese 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.”

    That is exactly why I am so passionate about AT and our professional obligations to ensure that every student who can benefit from it does. I have often heard the comment from teachers that assistive technologies available are too much work and are always having one glitch or another so they are not worth the effort. While it is true that learning and trouble shooting these technologies require time and effort on behalf of the teacher, the benefits to the students should be the measuring stick on which to judge the work. This can’t be based on a few tries with the technology but rather establishing a set goal with a set criterion in mind within a specific timeline and then determining the success. Coleman (2011, p. 8) advocates initially starting small when working with AT in order to increase the chances of successful implementation. I also think that appropriate task design is vital in the success of the AT. Moreover, just because the tool didn’t work well the first time through doesn’t mean in a different context it wouldn’t be useful.

    As with any skill, the more a person (teacher or student) uses a particular tool the more competent they become. Teachers, like students will build their capacity over time and then using the tool will become less of an issue.

    I work with someone whose child requires AT and each year brought similar challenges, as teachers were often hesitant to take on the AT in the class. She persevered however and now her child is about to graduate and has been accepted into several universities. He is walking through those same open doors as his peers.

    Reference:

    Coleman, M. (2011). Successful implementation of assistive technology to promote access to curriculum and instruction for students with physical disabilities. Physical Disabilities: Education And Related Services, 30(2), 2-22. Retrieved from: http://ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ955444&site=ehost-live

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