Greetings, Wellness Warriors!
Hyperconnectivity. Stimulation overload. Device fatigue. These are all terms I was not used to hearing until 2020. In the last year, the technological shift that has taken place has been overwhelming, to say the least. However, it was a necessary shift for society to maintain our connection throughout a pandemic. I am sure the creators of software like Zoom and Skype could never have imagined they would be an integral part of history like they were in the last year. Technology allowed us to stay connected in arguably one of the most challenging times of the 21st century.
Now that vaccine distribution is on the rise in the US, restrictions are lifting across the country and infection rates are dropping. We are all hoping to get back to life in person, but has our technological shift taken us so far that we won’t be turning back?
Technology may help make our lives easier, but studies show it affects how we communicate, learn, and think. However, just like anything else, there’s an upside and a downside when it comes to technological advances.
Technology has given us new and convenient methods of electronic communication over the years. Where we used to write letters, now there are emails. Instead of seeing someone in person, we now have social networking, facetime, video conferencing, text messaging, and more.
However, studies show that digital communication affects people negatively when it comes to being sociable and making face-to-face contact.
There really is no substitute for in-person interaction with someone. Mobile technology can feel impersonal, cold, and distant when you’re communicating with family or loved ones. Technology has made us more accessible to others because people can constantly reach us through our phones, tablets, and even smartwatches.
I believe that it is vital that we continue to expose children and young people to in-person communication. If we don’t, I fear they will not gain essential life skills needed for interpersonal communication, social skills, and will fail to learn the meaning of teamwork.
However, I cannot deny the enormous role these new forms of communication played during the height of the lockdown. Many of the seniors at Aegis Living were unable to see their family members for months on end, and we were so grateful for applications like Zoom that were able to bring them together.
How has technology changed learning? In the past year, distance learning became utterly reliant on technology. It has made learning more interactive and collaborative but also much more complicated. With any technology, there will be glitches, outages, and shortfalls. Some students thrive in a distance learning model, while those who rely on social interaction and one-on-one time with their teacher struggle. Some schools are even considering offering continued distance learning for students from now on and continuing to use tablets in the classroom environment.
According to educationdata.org, the pandemic school closures of 2020 sent over 50 million K-12 students home to learn remotely. Approximately 30% of those students lacked adequate digital access for distance learning, with approximately 9 million lacking internet and devices. During the pandemic, we chose to support our Aegis employees in any way we could. Because we know how essential learning is to a child’s development, we purchased 300 laptops for employees with school-aged children participating in at-home schooling due to the pandemic.
Because books and face-to-face lectures have dominated academic learning for as long as we can remember, there has been some hesitation and pushback for embracing technology in the classroom. I think it’s important to take a positive outlook on technology in schools and realize that the rest of the world relies on these technologies too. When students leave high school and college to find a job, they will almost certainly involve technology of some sort. The use of tech in the classroom is an opportunity to prepare students for a world where technology is there to supplement the learning and make their lives easier.
When it comes to higher education, online degrees are now an exciting possibility. Established traditional schools are now offering online courses, while new trade schools and universities have emerged that operate entirely online.
In addition, the pandemic forced The College Board, the organization that administers the SAT, to cancel and postpone testing dates. Many accredited and Ivy League colleges in the country announced that they would temporarily not require students to submit SAT scores for admission. This gives high school students a unique opportunity to apply for colleges strictly based on their academic achievements so far.
Thinking is the capacity to reflect, reason, and draw conclusions based on our experiences, knowledge, and insights. It’s what has allowed human beings to create and evolve into a modern society. There are so many different facets to thinking, such as learning, remembering, questioning, judging, innovating, and acting.
For our brains to keep up with technology, it’s no wonder we have had to change the way we think. Studies have shown that interactive video games can help to improve visual skills and allows us to become more detail oriented. While playing a game, you’re forced to think quickly on your toes, which increases decision-making skills the ability to multitask.
Unfortunately, on the flip side, social media and the Internet have shortened our attention spans. The quick fix our brains get from the instant gratification of a “like” or new comment on our post affects our patience and long-term concentration skills. However, some social media platforms have given us avenues to be much more creative, and we can share that creativity to inspire others.
We are living in unprecedented technological times, and we need to be aware of the positive and negative aspects of our new reality. Still, I think with the right mindset, the positives can far outweigh the negatives.
Until next time, Live Well, Live Long!