Does 21st Century Technology Encourage Illiteracy?

As you can see by the photo below, I’m a huge fan of technology.  As a high school teacher, I am required to use Remind, Google Apps for Education, Gmail and other email.  We are also required to have our cellphones with us at all times in case, God forbid, we find ourselves in an emergency situation.  We are encouraged, but not required, to follow the district’s Facebook account, Twitter feeds and I’m sure something else I’ve forgotten. However, we obviously cannot use our private Facebook or other social media for school business.

This photo shows my kindle, nook and Echo.  I took the photo with my iPhone and am posting this on my laptop.

new echo kindle nook

 

I believe in teaching and using 21st Century technology skills.  At work I use a desktop, a laptop, a Chromebook and my iPhone.  At home I use my iPhone, my Kindle, my nook and my laptop.  And thanks to a Christmas gift from my son, I now have an Amazon Echo.

The Echo is amazing.  It will be even more amazing when I remember to say “Alexa” instead of “Amber,” which for some reason I have memorized as the wake-up name. I’m still setting up my Echo, and have a lot to figure out.  But I have paired my Amazon Prime Music playlists, my Pandora account, and am now setting up an Audible account.  I can ask “Amber,” I mean “Alexa” what the weather is, get the news briefs from CNN and BBC, ask what time it is, ask for jokes and……that’s what I’ve figured out so far.  If you don’t know what the Echo is, check out the video.

I believe in teaching coding and that the Hour of Code which so many students across the nation, including my grandsons, participated in, is essential for future success for all students.

But I firmly believe in knowing how to read.

And it occurred to me today, as I woke up and asked the Echo what time it was, what the weather was like and for the CNN news, that I no longer needed to read.  Of course, some people need to read to write the code, to write the newsflashes, to write the books that we can listen to on Audible.  But especially with devices like the Echo, it isn’t necessary to read well or often.

Teachers have lamented for quite a while that students don’t read at the level they should. And they aren’t very interested in reading. I read about 5 books a week for pleasure, and read a lot for work.  But what I see in my classroom and in others, is kids looking around the room, sighing, saying aloud “this is boring. Why can’t we watch the movie?”  No longer is a student required to go home and read the book.  Or if they are, only a handful of students do it.  Now we read sections aloud, have them read short sections and then provide summaries.

And writing? There is a debate that students who normally wouldn’t write at all are writing on Twitter.  Newsflash not from Echo:  wanna is not a word. Even if students are gonna use it.  R u getting this?

i can't even bitmoji

What do researchers and other professionals think? Do they agree with me? I googled “Are 21st century technology skills increasing the achievement gap?” and got this article that debunks my theory.  Education Week 10/11/2010 Whaaaaaaa?  So let me do a Google search to find an article that agrees with my views.

The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner  This one is closer.  Not just a rah-rah all kids need to use technology and it automatically helps them achieve higher level thinking skills (allow me 2 remind u 2 b sure I totally disagree with this).  But Tony Wagner recognizes the gap that not only exists in this country but also that gap between the US and the global arena.  And that we need to read.

Knowing how to, and wanting to, read for pleasure is the greatest gift that a teacher can give a child.

But the Amazon Echo was the greatest gift that I received this Christmas.

About Barb Knowles

The things that are important to me are family, friends, teaching, writing, languages and using my sense of humor to navigate this crazy world. Please join me on this blogging adventure...
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33 Responses to Does 21st Century Technology Encourage Illiteracy?

  1. As usual an excellent and thoughtful post. My only question is: What the hell is an Amazon Echo, Echo, Echo.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. abyssbrain says:

    Though I am not very sure how much new technology can affect English language literacy, I am very certain that new technology has adversely decreased the Chinese writing skills of many people. Nowadays, it’s very easy to just “type” Chinese characters using systems such as Bopomofo which uses English phonetic system for “writing” Chinese based on their sounds. Predictably, people who rely on this system constantly cannot write more complex Chinese characters on paper now to save their lives… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Although the method is very different here, and although the research shows that people/students who are interested in writing code develop critical thinking skills, the average student is not. Twitter and emojis, which obviously I use as well, have changed writing so much that standard English words and phrases are just not used as often. It is very common to now see ‘idk” in an essay instead of “I don’t know.” And having websites that may or may not have legitimate sources are at their fingertips for cutting and pasting. Where is the critical thinking there? Very frustrating for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • abyssbrain says:

        Yes, constantly using nonstandard English and other online buzzwords could certainly affect people’s formal writing and spelling skills to a degree, though to what extent, I have no idea. All I know is that like everything else, it should only be used in moderation since if it becomes a habit, it would be very difficult to undo the damage.

        As for plagiarism, it has always been a big problem in the academic world. However, it becomes a lot easier to plagiarize these days because of the Internet. Fortunately, software like Turnitin can combat this kind of blatant plagiarism so students here in Hong Kong know better than to do that. Though of course, schools that don’t have this software would have a harder time catching them.

        But the sad thing about this is that plagiarism is becoming a “culture”. Not just students but also the professors and professionals do it. It seems that they don’t want to think for themselves anymore…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        I totally agree with you. I had a student insist his essay was in his own words, even though it was blatantly obvious that it couldn’t be. A big clue? He left a hyperlink in it!

        Liked by 1 person

      • abyssbrain says:

        That’s just really sad. He just copy pasted it without even looking at it…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        Exactly. Ridiculous.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Paul says:

    Wow, you officially use more technology than I do! What does this mean!?!?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s awesome that you can code, Barb and that you teach it too! I can’t do it for nuts and have no patience with it. I have a love-hate relationship with technology…Amazon echo I haven’t heard of. Pretty nifty thing!
    I just read an article today that things will be presented in mostly visuals vs text in the next 2 years. Not that it hasn’t happened already. That would definitely shape the culture of less reading. Sad. Nothing like a good, old book with lots of text to read for me. Your sentiments are very valid!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      I can’t code at all; just some basic html. I have to read back and make sure I didn’t goof up. I teach my kids know how to use the programs and devices they need for school. But I 100% think teaching code is important. And now across this country is a movement to teach coding to everyone. But I believe that as the user end habits of texting, tweeting and now pure listening instead of reading and writing, increase, we are doing a great disservice to our society. I think the divide between who has and does not have tech skills will increase the overall education divide. Plus, technology is not cheap. So the divide is exacerbated along socio-economic lines as well. And I agree with you. Reading the adventures in a print book is wonderful and fosters thought and pleasure and imagination and critical thinking. Thank you for your comments!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yes! You are spot on – that technology is not cheap; it pains me when clients in the industry I work in thinks digital is cheap and there’s loads of education that needs to be done about that. It’s a slow process, and a pain in the butt when they “don’t get it”. Coding is definitely becoming more important and it’s the one thing I cannot master. :p

        Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Hey Ann, I just re-read what I wrote. I do believe in teaching coding. But I’m not the one teaching it. I think it is extremely important and wish I could teach it. I just want reading to be valued as highly or more highly.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. John Guillen says:

    Well. I can’t code. But I recognize its importance. I also have no kids yet, so I can’t say they like this or that or reading it coding. But when that time comes I can tell you that I’ll want to prepare them for what’s ahead rather than just what everyone else has their kids doing. Reading is a given. They’ll always be encouraged to read. Most likely coding too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      I hope they will be encouraged to do both. But reading is taking the backburner in the minds of a lot of students. And I think that’s scary. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      • John Guillen says:

        I know it is. Before I started working at a bookstore I hardly knew anyone who enjoyed reading. And now just about everyone I interact with does. Which is definitely not the norm. At least it hasn’t been for me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        One of my favorite jobs was working years ago at Barnes & Noble bookstore. And for the reason you said. Every person there was a reader. We were knowledgeable about books and talked about them constantly. The biggest surprise for me was going to the break room for lunch and every person on their break was reading. I do not, however, think that is the norm, unfortunately. Have a very happy new year!

        Like

      • John Guillen says:

        It’s the same here! I passed around my reading challenge and everyone is talking about doing it. They’re always reading on break too. And it’s fun to interact with customers who enjoy the same books as I do. Happy New Year!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Bea dM says:

    To answer your title question, I believe the answer is yes, and it’s actually supported by leading-edge neuroscience. I saw the upcoming generation described as the “coding generation”, which doesn’t really give us a clear idea of how humanity will evolve. Though this may be countercurrent, my experience in teaching languages to people of all ages has shown me that no amount of technology, gyzmos or internet will equal the benefits of simply …. reading to enrich people’s communication skills!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      I agree completely! Yes, people have to understand at least user end technology, but reading and writing skills have to take at least the importance of technology, if not much more. As always, it’s great to have these conversations with you.

      Liked by 1 person

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