Friday, August 2, 2013

Instancy and Critical Thinking

"When I was your age I walked 5 miles to school, uphill both ways, in the snow..."

I think most of us heard some form of this when we were kids, even if it was just in jest.  I write this post with that in mind, amazed (and a bit embarrassed) by the fact that I'm at a point in my life where I'm going to talk about how different it was when I was a kid.

I love technology and all its benefits.  I utilize it non-stop.  But there's something to be said about the instancy of our world and how it has negatively impacted critical thinking.

I can vividly remember one of the first times I realized I was thinking critically.  Maybe it wasn't critical thinking, it might have just been simple problem solving.  And I'm sure I had problem solved many times before this one instance, but in this particular case I consciously realized I had solved a problem on my own.

I had a walkman.  It played tapes.  I don't know how old I was at the time, maybe 7 or 8.  It had three buttons: play, stop, and fast forward.  I wanted to hear a song again and I didn't want to listen to the entire rest of the side of the tape, and the entirety of the other side, before hearing it.  Short of me taking the tape out and twirling the rotor with my finger, I had to find a more efficient way to do this.  Somehow it hit me...if I switch the tape to the other side and press fast forward, that would be the same as rewinding it on this side.  I was proud of myself.

Technology changed that.  A more expensive walkman had a rewind button.  Then cds came out.  Instead of rewinding to a song I could just hit one button and it would immediately go back to the beginning of the song.  Amazing!  But with the advancements in technology, leading to instantly rewinding my song, there was a loss of problem solving.  A loss of the need to think critically.

I think this has happened in a lot of areas in our lives.  I used to have my best friends' phone numbers memorized.  I'm sure that was a small exercise of the brain.  My phone does that for me now.  Going on a trip I'd do the navigation myself.  An app does that for me now.  Things that took some time are now done instantly.  And more often than not, done for us.  In many ways this is a great thing, but not in all ways.

I wouldn't trade the advances in technology for the times of yesteryear.  But as an educator, and as a dad, it's crucially important that we allow our kids opportunities to exercise their intrinsic ability to decipher, think, wonder, and solve.  You'd think that because the world is moving so much faster we'd have more time to think, but the opposite is true.  The instancy has taken thinking away from us.  We've got to be aware of this and intentionally put it back into the lives of our kids.

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