Brenda Power has raised a number of interesting points in today’s Irish Times 20/09/2015 in relation to the role of technology in Ireland.
According to the article, tablet computers are due to be issued to those who have been long-term unemployed for over one year, to help them avail of online job opportunities. This is the problem with technology, there is no set time-frame. It is great that there is enormous flexibility but there is no button available to switch off from the world of technology even temporarily. The most effective method is a dead battery, which can cause many a tantrum, however, it is easily resolved.
I think a far more effective method would be to make available the necessary job support information in a suitable booklet format including relevant but not a limited set of websites. The person could then go to their local library or Intreo office and at regular intervals check in and perhaps be provided with the help they need with application forms which can be an obstacle for some people. Losing face-to-face contact is perilous in this ever-changing world.
Too much exposure to technology and excessive use of it has a negative impact on a person’s physical and mental well-being, however, studies to support this view are far off in the distance. And with the amount of time that an unemployed person may have on their hands, it is not best practice to aid them with potentially excessive habits. Of course, it is important to note that work has moved from physical toil to mental toil, from old forms of technology to newer forms and that people need to be prepared for this overall.
And so the most important form of training that should be made available to everyone is the management of technology in their daily professional and personal lives. Nearly every aspect of human knowledge, understanding, behaviour, habits are documented online and a person is a click away from being connected. This idea that the world is at our fingertips when in reality one can be very disconnected from the world around them.
Obviously people could purchase the tablets themselves but they are making that choice, it is not being made for them. A free tablet is essentially not free, particularly if wifi/internet has to be purchased in order to view the materials. The internet is a lucrative minefield. Giving someone social welfare aid in the form of a weekly payment that does not amount to much in the overall scheme of things and handing them devices in an attempt to push them into the workforce whereby they may not be willing or ready for. Training people with skills and building on their confidence is what will help people. The motivation has to come from within oneself. And this is especially so when it comes to holding down a job.
Some people will welcome this development with open arms. I would view it with scepticism on the other hand. Digital literacy is paramount just as literacy has played a vital role in the world of print. Identifying the difference between tabloid and broadsheet; between sensational and pragmatic; deciphering genres, themes, essential pieces of information, wisdom and knowledge; comparing and contextualising. Now apply that to the digital world. It is just not the same. The screen versus the page.
A spin has been put on the OECD report into the use of technology in schools and may be used in order to limit funding in this area as suggested by Brenda Power. There is no need to limit investment in classroom technology rather it is essential to ensure it is being used effectively and not unnecessarily excessively. Excessive usage can cause eye problems, and other problems may relate to posture etc. It comes back again to the idea of management. The teacher managing student’s online activity and behaviour. However, many teachers need to undergo further training to be equipped in this area.
IPads are being used to replace books in schools and their use has not been extended to take into account the value of the IPad itself as its own entity, a learning tool in its own right. We have a long road to travel yet in our coming to terms with and our understanding of technology. One thing is for sure, the more we use technology the more we come to appreciate it, however, moderation has always held the key to success.