Technology: distraction or tool for self discovery?

Growing up Digital, Wired for Distraction

Matt Richtel’s article from the New York Times entitled “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction” discusses the effects of the digital age on the education and attention span of those who were raised in it. He tells the anecdote of a boy named Vishal who’s grades may suffer due to his lack of attention and ability to focus on his work while being surrounded by so many platforms of technology.

Vishal and Richtel both stress the idea of “immediate gratification” that children who grow up in the digital age are so intent on receiving. Vishal suggests that this is his reason for watching youtube videos as opposed to reading books. I imagine it’s the same reason that students use sparknotes instead of reading full chapters and why many students rely so heavily on Wikipedia for their research information (it’s pretty much the first link that comes up while looking for anything on google). What used to take a significant amount of time to read or find can now be done in the span of just a couple clicks.

The technology available doesn’t require a long attention span for its use and therefore the children using it do not develop a long attention span. This is not something that goes unnoticed by the children themselves. They notice the extra length of time it takes to complete simpler tasks and the constant draw to check their cell phones or their facebook pages or to play their video games. One boy Richtel discusses, Sean, says that he “sometimes wishes that his parents would force him to quit playing [his video game] and study, because he finds it hard to quit when given the choice.” Sean longs for the ability to focus and get good grades but he blames his video games for having taken that away from him.

Mr. Reilly, Vishal’s principal, works in many ways to incorporate technology into the education of the students. He does so in many different subject areas across the board to feed every child’s interest. He stresses the idea of how technology can help students to develop a “sense of self”. Technology expands their world and exposes them to things they wouldn’t otherwise get to experience. This exposure helps develop new ideas and interests among the students and the technology provides the outlet through which to express the sense of self that they develop.

Vishal discusses how technology exposed him to the world of filmmaking and how it allows him to express that passion. He brings up again the idea of “instant gratification” saying that it only takes him a few clicks to make something happen with his filmmaking and that taking the time to do homework or read a book is less exciting. Vishal doesn’t excel in many classes beyond those in which he gets to explore filmmaking.

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