Summer 2012

Is Technology Tromping the ABC's?

...continued from previous page.

Watch Your Cues

"If we make the distinction between technical skills and communication skills then the fact that we can use advanced technologies does not mean that we can effectively get our message across, nor does it mean that we know how to effectively utilize the unique affordances of digital communication tools."
Dr. Yoram Kalman, senior lecturer and digital technology researcher
"Our need to communicate with people has not changed one iota with the appearance of Facebook or other social media. What has changed is that these tools enable us to augment the number of people with whom we are in touch, and this is a very dramatic change whose side effects have yet to be understood."

But, are we really communicating? Most people assume they know how to communicate. After all they are sending e-mails, smsing, tweeting, posting comments. But this, in and of itself, is a technological tool for communication, not necessarily communication itself. And, unlike traditional communications which have evolved over time, and are based on a set of rules we pass down from one generation to the next, digital communications have catapulted forward with no tradition of rules.

How do we, or can we create a set of rules?

Dr. Yoram Kalman believes that this is already happening before our eyes. Analyses performed on thousands of corporate emails, Facebook postings, Twitter messages and blog posts reveal a prevalence of cues used in text-based computer-mediated communication. Letter repetitions, emoticons, words in all uppercase, asterisks, and excessive punctuation such as ellipses, exclamation points and question marks are but a few examples of these cues.

"Ignore these cues, and you are ignoring an important aspect of communication. In my opinion," Dr. Kalman continues, "these cues perform a role similar to that of non-verbal cues in spoken communication. They add nuance and emotion, and make online communication richer."

Pauses in communication are also cues, albeit of a different nature. You send an email, SMS, post a Facebook message and there is no immediate response. What does this mean? It has been shown that such pauses in online communication reflect important attributes such as trust and personality.

But, the fact is, in spite of our greater insights into these non-verbal cues, the lack of a strong tradition in online communication has led to a kind of illiteracy in correspondence in general where the rules of professional hierarchy, meticulous phrasing, rich language and even creative thinking are often lacking.

"Schools are focusing on some skills, but ignoring others, such as effective communication, online deliberation skills and basic skills such as critical thinking and innovative thinking," which according to Dr. Kalman, "are at least as important as mastering specific digital tools, if not more fundamental."

Redefining the Role of the Teacher

Dr. Kalman believes that the seminal role of the educational system is to bring the wisdom of the past to the future. "If we are preparing the future generation for future technology and innovation, then we need to teach our kids creative thinking skills, critical thinking skills, and enriched interpersonal communication skills."

These skills should not be taught through advanced technology. "They can only be taught by teachers in the classroom."

Here is where the teacher's role has become muddled. "There is huge pressure to get more and more technology into the classrooms, but much of the technology, rather than serving as a tool for enhancing education, is overshadowing the teacher, and in so doing is causing us to lose sight of the fundamentals."

So, to advance technologically, be digitally literate and communicate effectively... we need to get back to the basics in the classroom.

Page: 1  2