This is just going to be all over the place so I apologize in advance but this is writing to learn more than writing to share my learning.
Our world is awesome.
Technology allows us to do things that we could never do before. We can video chat with people around the world simply, for a much cheaper rate than we could have called them years ago. I have memories of my dad that I can relive over and over again, even after his passing. Every time we press “tweet” or “publish” it gets around the world instantly. There is a power in our hands and in our pockets that we could not have imagined. But with every step forward, we sometimes lose things along the way.
I can now call pretty much any services I have and I can get to anything I want through an automated machine that is often much quicker than any person I could talk to, yet when I get on the line, every single time, I press “0” immediately. For all that technology gives us, I still want to talk to a person.
I love that I can do online banking, but I also love the interactions that I can still have in the bank. That choice matters to me. One time though, I distinctly remember going into the bank to make a deposit and being asked if I was interested in a tax-free savings account, followed by RRSP’s, and so on. I saw the teller was not looking at mean and reading off their computer a list of questions that were suggested based on my financial situation. In my conversation with a person, I had been reduced to an algorithm. When I actually called them out on this, they were embarrassed not only because of me saying something, but because their company put them in the situation in the first place. This example is crucial to the work that we do in education.
Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, relationships will be the most important thing we do in schools.
I am guessing that some parents feel this same way when they call schools to report of the absence of their child. Yes, the technology makes it convenient, but sometimes a person needs to talk, and sometimes they need to be heard. The “tech” sometimes leaves them lacking the piece of mind that they needed from that phone call. It is not simply about what is convenient, but sometimes what is needed.
Although I think technology is so crucial to our roles today, I think the more digital we are the more “human” our schools and leadership needs to become. Sharing our stories and connecting through social media brings a lot in creating a human connection, but I still love the teacher that welcomes kids to their classroom every morning and has a conversation with them, or the principal who stands in the middle of the hallway to have conversations with kids about almost everything except for school. Although things like supervision might seem like an “add-on” to our day, I started to look at it as an investment into people. Talk to someone for ten minutes and take a sincere interest in their lives, and that ten minutes will come back to you exponentially.
There is something that we lose sometimes in our interactions on social media. Many people (and rightfully so) do not share many aspects of their lives through what they share online. For me, I share with people that the safest “guideline” to follow on social media is that you would not say anything online that you would not say to a group of kids. Yet that doesn’t mean that people share their lives openly online, but what they are comfortable with other people that they may consider “strangers”. You might not see the whole picture and there is so much more to a person than what they share online.
With a world that is increasingly digital, our “humanness” is more crucial than ever. I am reminded of Charlie Chaplin’s speech in the “Great Dictator” in 1940, and how some elements of that speech from that movie made years ago are as relevant as ever.
We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind.
We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery ,we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness.
So with all the talk of technology, we just need to remember that there is so much more to schools and some of the best things in “20th Century Education” are just as relevant today. If you are a school that does not focus on building relationships, you are on a faster road to irrelevance than one that doesn’t use technology. In a world where information is easy to access and I can always find better content online than I can in school, the refocus on relationships is more crucial now than ever.
Embrace technology; it will provide people opportunities that we could have dreamed of when we were kids. But just remember that people will always be the most important part of the education system. As soon as we reduce everyone to a number or an avatar, we will have lost more than we could have ever gained.