September 11, 2007

For those who say that technology stops youngsters interacting for 'real'

  Skype babe 3 
  Originally uploaded by goforchris

This is what technology does every day for me, for millions, and above all for teenagers. It connects people.

In this case, it's connected my two-and-a-half week old with her grandma on the other side of the country. They had quite a long conversation on Skype about politics, the state of the environment, whether the PM might call an election... OK, they didn't. So the 'quality of the interaction', when assessed, is very poor. But I challenge anyone to say that it doesn't mean so much to those who took part.

What are you going to assess today? Are you just going to assess for the heck of it? And is assessing interactions through technology always actually 'do-able' and desirable? Ultimately, does technology get in the way of human interactions, or enhance them?


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Totally agree, Ewan - I had this same debate with another parent of teenagers last night! His kids and mine are in constant contact - always up to date with one another's lives, but he insists "no-one talks anymore". And what a treasured moment for your daughter and her granny! What a way to close those miles!

Excellent point Ewan, I often hear people say things like that.


The acorn didn't fall far from the tree!

It's the connecting with people that you can do with computing that makes me want to use ICT.

The thought of spending time learning how best to create an EXCEL spreadsheet makes me yawn but communicating with others via Skype, blogging, RSS, podcasting, wikis, IM, phone, Twitter, Voicethread- now that really is something.

I understand Allanah's point, but as an Excel devotee who spent many many years training people in its use, I would just like to chip in a contribution on that point.

Learn how to make a spreadsheet? Yawn indeed. Learning how to carry out some task quickly and easily that just happens to involve a spreadsheet? Bring it on! When we focus on the technology, we miss the point. When we focus on what the technologies enables us to do - as in Cationa's moment with her gran... now, that's more like it!

Let me see if I understand this. People are saying that a communication technology prevents people from communicating. Hmmm - there seems to be some sort of logical fallacy there.

My wife's parents are originally from the Netherlands and have many family there. If I had suggested that they get a computer, they would have said they had no use for it. When I asked if they would like to keep easily in touch with family members, they loved the idea. After few brief tutorials from me(turning the computer on and off, here's how the mouse works, etc.), they are now in regular contact with family. As Karen points out most people don't get excited about technology, but are very interested when they can see what can be done with the technology as a tool.

Last week some colleagues and I were discussing the issue of whether teens are more connected or less connected than they used to be.

One colleague made the comment that I think a lot of people are thinking - "They have hundreds of friends on Facebook, but they don't know their next door neighbor.

Technology is doing wonders to connect the global community, but what's happening at the local level?

Ultimately, does technology get in the way of human interactions, or enhance them? Well it can create them. Quite a few of us have worked with people without meeting them. I have friends I know I'll never meet, I assess these connections as important.
There are points where people can be more unpleasant online (see cyber-bulling), but often the opposite can happen a shared interest can bring out great generosity.


My son is 19. When we took him to college last year, in North Texas, he was constantly pulling his phone from his pocket, reading it, sometimes typing something in, sometimes not, slipping it back into his pocket. I finally asked what he was doing. He told me he was talking with his friends.

These were his high school friends, now in Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Michigan, and all over North Carolina. You see, he carries his conversations with him. He never said goodbye to his friends when he flew off to Texas.

When I went off to college, I said goodbye to my friends. Some of them, I never saw again.

It is critical that we come to understand this and figure out how to channel learning through these new avenues. It's just too big to ignore, and way to important to be afraid of.

Just to reinforce David's point. I dropped off my daughter (17) at her student flat in edinburgh on sunday. She was most upset by the fact that her internet connection was not sorted out yet.

I had to blog about your mum.

But to Heather's's always about balance. Our job is to help kids and grandparents figure out how to leverage this stuff to enrich our experiences, connections in both offline and online worlds. We don't have to choice one or the other, just make sure we balance them.

In the last few months, since starting my blog, I've met several people locally after contact via the blog and found a new volunteer coach for the swimming club! My father in law died earlier this year and one of his offspring appropriated the computer during the sort out. Grandma, who had never used it, was a bit miffed when she found out. So was I because I was going to show her how to read my blog so that she could keep in touch with teh grandchildren. I think the others thought she would never want to learn how to use a computer whereas I look on it rather like using a telephone.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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