It was the dawning of a new era. It was the beginning of an abundance of information made readily available and a way to stay connected, known as the World Wide Web.
I recall my grandfather telling me the traditional stories that so many of us have heard through first person accounts or in a tale in a movie, magazine or newspaper article. “I remember back in the day when I had to walk five miles to get to school with a small coat in the middle of winter. I used to read my books by candlelight with the smallest gust of wind putting out the flame. You young people have no idea how easy you have it.” If having school buses and electricity made our great grandfathers shake their heads imagine what they would think of our life now!
Technology has advanced us in so many ways it’s almost a given that in a group of people if a question arises someone will jump on their cell phone and find the answer. (You know those people)
Technology has especially advanced us in regards to learning. I want to take a closer look at the causes and effects of this new generation. The new ‘tools’ available to aid us in our search for information. The new Google generation, the cut and paste generation and I don’t mean with scissors and glue.
Do you remember the library, the information center? Do you recall the journey that you had to take to prepare for a paper or thesis? The library was the one reliable source that you could go to, without doubt and retrieve that missing piece of information to make a final statement on an essay golden!
I can recall rifling through the index cards and searching through shelves trying to remember the order of the alphabet so that I could correctly locate the source I was searching for. Many people enjoy rummaging through old, used bookstores for hidden gems but it used to be mandatory through school, starting at the elementary level. Many people nowadays would not even know where to begin if placed in a library of times gone by.
I can recall the smell of the books, the pleasure of a good find. The tangible effect and how good it made you feel to look at the final product with such a sense of accomplishment, if not exhaustion from all of the running around and searching. You had to know where to look and what you were searching for. You did not just ‘Stumble Upon’ things. We aroused so many sensations along the way. It makes me wonder what kind of effect this could have on our future generations.
Now we just flip open our laptops, type in a word and find what we are searching for and if we happen to make a spelling mistake no worries it will be corrected for you. No longer is the source of research ideas created in your mind, it is a simple stoke of a key into a search engine. There you will find an abundance of information and project ideas. Although I find extreme value in modern day technology and search engines, operating in this way on an academic level has almost completely removed the odds of creating something unique and original.
When I was in school the biggest concern for teachers in regards to plagiarism was not properly citing a quote from a book. Now there are entire research assignments, for example, available for people to claim as their own online. Even other peoples poems or stories!
The problem is availability. People often lose sight of the small bud of original idea and thought that was attempting to blossom by not allowing time to foster their own creativity. Instead many lean on the faster, more efficient but less creativity building method known as the search engine.
Students of the past used to get together and research, read, talk and communicate in person. Now often when students work ‘together’ files are shared with one another to edit and create other ideas and it may not even be necessary to sit down with one another before submitting the paper. This is so practical and efficient but what of the social aspect? What about the ability to work effectively together, the time to forge friendships over late night popcorn and buttery notes?
I have had conversations with people that I’ve met online. We have researched, emailed and communicated with in regards to a project, looking forward to exploring in depth, in person their knowledge on the topic only to find that the person has strong assembly skills and internet skimming abilities but let down by the depth of information made available by them through conversation.
I find even in myself a confidence in writing but when asked to articulate the same thoughts my oral skills are not comparable.
Is this due to my to my increased time spent online and using written forms of communication and expression versus fifteen years ago when if I wanted to communicate with someone it was done orally or through letter writing that was extremely lagging in comparison to the quick answers of today?
Technology has opened up a fountain of information to us. We can attain information so quickly, things that would have taken weeks to acquire years ago.
That being said, I recall an interesting story that I heard not too long ago of a person that is learned and accredited intentionally going onto Wikipedia (as a writing contributor!) to put incorrect information to see how long this would take to get corrected, sometimes taking up to eight months. This is a prime example of people trusting sources as fact when they may not even have the factual information.
I can’t help but feel that we are learning a lot more about a few things and there is far less depth to the things that we take time to know. People seem to not care to know all that there is to know about a subject anymore. I want to equate a depth of knowledge with a depth of over all character.
Technology is changing the way that we communicate, operate, think and socialize. It is also changing our priorities. These technologies are to help make our lives more efficient, easier, to give us freedom of time.
We want answers now, instant gratification. The top five listed options available on Google are often enough choices for most to know everything that they care to know about a subject. We appear to trust web sites as fact but trust and depend less on one another.
Technology and social media make it so that I now ‘know’ so many people. I hear of what people ate for dinner and what they bought at the mall, how they spent their weekend (and I also share this type of information) but we get far less substance.
Gone are the days of entering libraries, the rustling through book shelves, the checking out of books and the responsibilities that come with that, the lessons to be learned from this type of action. Gone are the days of meeting people along the way, sharing a chat or a smile. People are plugged into technology, heads down in their phones and readers. People aren’t taking the time, making the time.
The one thing that remains consistent though is the desire for knowledge.
Let me leave you with this.
The big question is will the superficiality and lack of depth of the things learned in the new Google generation, less time taken, create a more instant gratifying, self reliable, socially isolated way of existing?
Will this new and more efficient way of existing create more time for us to spend with the very things we now tend to value, like, technology?