Education Opinion

Both F2F & Tech Communication Need Strong Content & Connection

By Marc Prensky — September 15, 2014 2 min read
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Continuing my Post 0002, a response to a commenter, here are additional thoughts. The commenter wrote:

“I feel we need to be using our technology in moderation and teach students the art of conversation--eye contact and all. ... I want [my students] coming into the room with more human interaction and mannerisms, even in this day and age.”

To me, the important elements in good, effective communication are having both strong content and a strong connection. The vast majority of the “content” of face-to-face conversations in the world — in every country — is about trivialities: the weather, sports, etc. The vast majority of tweets and Facebook posts are also not very deep in their content. Yet even with that kind of content, both media help maintain strong connections.

I think students should focus on both: the content and the connection of all their communication. They should become able to create strong, effective content and connections in multiple media. The communication options kids have today are much broader than in the past; It is important we help kids realize both how many opportunities for deep connection and content are available to them, and how to get the most out of each of these.

Importantly, we must realize that ALL of these forms of communication, are equally “human.” since, as I discussed in my book Brain Gain, “what is human” is broader in our times. Our mental capabilities now are being extended by technology in similar ways to how our physical capabilities were extended in the past. Few think someone is “less human” for having integrated into their life the technologies of clothing or cars. But our “mind extensions” are new, and we are still figuring uot how to deal with them.

This requires openness to new perspectives. It is important, for example, that educators not teach kids, equate, “looking someone in the eye” with “human,” (as opposed to “useful”) and that they not equate “effective communication” with “talking to each other face-to-face.”

Face-to-face communication Is certainly something humans have always done. But humans are evolving — now faster than ever. Does anyone think someone is “more human” for being an unreflective motor-mouth? Is someone (or even a family) “less human” because they prefer to communicate (strongly and deeply or otherwise) in text, or via phone or Facebook?

I believe that by adding all these new capabilities — and using them wisely — we can all become better humans.

Using them wisely is the key. We need, as I have written, “Digital Wisdom.” Because our kids now live in a mixed world, fluency in both technology-assisted and face-to-face communication is desirable — where one area is lacking, we should try to develop it. But we should not go overboard in prioritizing the skills of the past based on our own upbringing as the world’s last Pre-Internet generation and on a world-view, and set of priorities, shaped by a different time.

In our new context — which I will discuss in detail in future posts — each person needs to find his or her own personal comfort zone and balance between the old ways and the new. We should be encouraging our students to reflect on, and discuss frequently their own strengths and preferences, and we should help them improve on whatever dimensions are weak. Sadly our current educational system and offers few good opportunities and methods to help them do this.

Which brings me to the commenter’s solution for addressing this issue, which I will discuss in my next post.

As always, your comments are welcome..


The opinions expressed in Prensky’s Provocative Ed-Tech Thinking are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.