Friday, July 22, 2011

Response to Families and Technology

David Elkind, in his article "Societal Change and the Growing Divide between Knowing and Understanding," from the special 200th issue of Exchange states,

"...What technology has done, particularly for young people, is to widen the gap between what they know and what they can understand....

"Today, children fly radio-controlled planes, or sail radio-controlled boats, which they know how to operate but do not really understand how radio controls work....  And this is true not only for children’s toys, but for all facets of children’s worlds, from television to computers, to cell phones, microwaves, and much more.

"There are, I believe several possible negative consequences to this growing divide between what children know and what they understand.  One of these consequences is that it can discourage, if not kill, curiosity.  When it is really impossible to understand how something works, this discourages any sense of wonder at what is happening or any questioning of why it is happening....

"A second related concern is children’s willingness to accept things on faith and without questioning them.  Jean Piaget once wrote that the aim of education was to create children 'who think for themselves and do not accept the first idea that is presented to them.'

"Yet children today have to accept that much of their world, which is in large measure technological, is beyond their understanding. They know how to watch television, use a computer, and play on a computer or talk and text on a cell phone.  Yet they have little, if any, understanding of the technology that makes what they are doing possible.  This is bad enough for those of us who have not grown up with this technology, but it poses a threat of intellectual passivity in those who have."