Hey, Tech World: Don’t Forget the Human Touch

Post Date: March 20th, 2011

“RSS is dead. Blogs are dead. The web is dead.

Good.”

Seth Godin, “Bring Me Stuff That’s Dead, Please.”

If you’re a teacher or a writer feeling a bit behind on the ever-spinning hamster wheel of technology, you’re not alone. Thank goodness for marketing innovator Seth Godin’s insight that the “drive-by technorati“–those who would tell us the tech we’re using is “so yesterday”–shouldn’t rule our lives.

Writers are harassed with reminders to tweet, post, network, friend, blog, vlog…I’m sure I’m missing the latest verb our tech revolution has created. Teachers are told they’re not only the reason for failing schools but they should get hip to the latest tech without any funds. I just taught a workshop at the NCAGT conference reminding teachers to avoid “tech for tech’s sake” even as I shared predictions that half of all high school courses will be taught online in less than a decade. As I shared various ways Duke University Talent Identification Program helps students learn online, whether independent study or with instructors, I also said we shouldn’t rush the Web if face-to-face teaching serves us best.

“Face-to-face”? “Real-time” and “synchronous” teaching? There was a time when teaching lacked such adjectives. We assumed of course that experience would be live, together, and very human.

As a writer, I love blogs. I love the innovation of e-readers. I love that we can create trailers and fan fiction and other platforms for readers and authors to engage. But my daily mantra is also, I am enough, I do enough, and where you’re at with tech today is JUST FINE.
Are you spending more time grooming and learning tech than you are spending time being with others?

I introduced my workshop by waving my husband’s old-school watch dangling from my wrist and telling participants I’m too embarrassed to show them my cell, a fat little 99-cent Kyocera used for emergencies. I said, “I’m not a techie. But, let me tell you how we should work, think, and behave should we go online…”

Soon we’ll all be online, all the time. Where else are we headed? Phones in our ears, smartphones in our palms, everything connected. If that’s so, then the essential questions are, How human are we in midst of these machines? Are we still laying hands on one another to greet? Are we still making eye contact and smiling?

In my novel ST. MICHAEL, PRAY FOR US, Wendy Redbird Dancing is a teen who hates what she calls this “useless Age of Noughts.” She watches her peers in the high school halls and comments, “Everyone’s ogling phones, caressing tiny keyboards, heads bent forward into screens. Never cut from electrical umbilicals…” Meanwhile, she’s plugged into a iPod beneath her hoodie, because she’s afraid to deal with other people straight up. She needs the cloak and soundtrack of St. Michael’s (Michael Jackson’s) music.

For today, how long was I plugged in to tech yet removed? When all I or anyone really wants is to reach out and touch someone? (’80’s kids, you can’t forget this AT & T commercial.) As Doug Chapel’s cartoon says so well, “All this communication and yet we’re all so totally separated from one another”…

Long live the human touch.

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