Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Looking for the shift key
"Shift happens". That is the theme of the above 8-minute slide show, "Did You Know 2.0", about the pace of technological change. Aimed at American parents, educators and legislators, it makes a strong point that, in terms of globalization, we do ourselves and our children a favour by facing the fact that "we live in an exponential world".
I sent my April 17 article called "Snail mail in a post-fax world" to my ex-boss, who is featured there in my story of how, thirty years ago, I resisted his early adoption of the new fax technology. He currently teaches a course where he stresses "embracing technology", and kicks off his class with the above video.
I found myself watching it with double vision. As a parent, I am cheering my tech-savvy son on. But personally, I look at these daunting statistics from the other side of the digital divide. The video quotes Albert Einstein: "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." On a cognitive level, I can see the big picture. But on an experiential level, I feel the same sort of isolation that I imagine is felt by parents who have immigrated into a culture with a different language. They moved out of their own comfort zone to give their children more advantages, but find themselves coping with communication barriers that impede their own daily life. One person described her experience of rapid technical change in terms of the experience of leaving your mother tongue behind -- with the added dimension, for her, that she had not chosen to leave home.
In my city, some newcomer neighbourhoods have bilingual street signs, just to help people without strong English skills to find their way around. I hope to be able to use this blog as a space to provide similar non-judgemental bridges for those who came of age before computers -- people I refer to as "COABC's". It seems to me that there are dilemmas being faced, even by those of us who are trying to "be part of the solution", around the new learnings implicit in retooling our skills. Many are ashamed to admit to fatigue, conflicting time priorities, lack of access, and different learning styles. In another posting here, for example, I direct parents and teachers to the British site BT Digital Champions, which gives children tools to teach digital skills to their grandparents. Shift does indeed happen. But a child grows in compassion at the same time as their granny grows in skills, when they sit together at a computer locating that key.