The oldest joke about modern technology is that when you get a new phone, find a 15-year-old who can show you how it works. The underlying message is that kids are so much more advanced when it comes to technology.
I challenge that assumption.
The kids are great when it comes to phones and apps, but not so adept when it comes to the research, the basics of the technology and the curiosity it takes to succeed. It's the fault of the App World we live in. We've made it too easy to get the answers without figuring out how to solve the problem.
I don't mean to sound like the crabby lady yelling at the kids to stay off my lawn. Nor do I pine for the good old days when we had to learn arithmetic on an abacas. I make a living helping companies utilize technology to increase business. Technology advances have helped the world immensely in the past 50 years.
However, we have reached an age when the getting to the end is more important than the journey.
That's bad for at least three reasons.
- "There's an app for that" might be the most dangerous five words in the language. An app takes the work out of the equation. It does the work for you and supplies an answer. But there is real value in trying, failing, learning from your mistakes.
- "Let me Google that" might be the most dangerous four words in the language. Some people – a few – are willing to go into the Google answers they get and click the link to get the research. These few are willing to learn and understand what went into getting the answer. But the vast majority just want the answer and have no idea how the researcher got there.
- "It's on YouTube" might be the most dangerous three words in the language. Yes, YouTube has allowed us to see how to apply caulking to winterize your house, but YouTube is a one-way street. Where is the learning when there is one person talking and there is no opportunity to ask questions and interact with the teacher?
People buy a new car with dozens of technological gimmicks and don't use 90 percent of them, and can't tell you how the car runs. Kids can stream music but they don't know to change a flat.
The app world gives them a false sense of security. Each week you hear of a youngster lured into a dangerous encounter with a creep who pretended to be someone else on a phone app.
Again, I don't want to sound cranky here. Or like an alarmist. But every single one of us has seen mothers, fathers, sons and daughters glued to their screens at a restaurant. Raise your hand if you have a son or daughter who can simultaneously text six friends in separate conversations. Is that a skill? Or is that a recipe for a loss of critical thinking?
I am all for slowing this train down and taking time to learn.