Viewing posts for the category technology
Parents are increasingly worried about the endless challenges of technology in the lives of their kids: texting, social media, inappropriate content, distraction, sleeplessness, gaming — the list goes on. The sheer volume of screen time seems to be edging out so much of what used to be fundamental to family and adolescent development: chats in the car with parents, conversations over dinner, shared activities outside. And kids are worried too. They're sleeping less, on devices more (much more), and stuck in a loop of constant digital immersion.
Twitter is a map of the human imagination: changeable, inventive, sometimes strange, always surprising. And, like the imagination, it follows our intentions, impulses, proclivities, and whims. Twitter is much more than an online tool, much broader than the notion of a website, and much more interesting than it first seems -- at least to those who are not already immersed in social media and technology culture. For educators, Twitter can be a tool for communications with colleagues and students, a means of building online educational communities, a method of jump-starting research, and whatever else you want it to be. Here's how to get started.
Educators have spent a good deal of time over the past few years thinking about (and wringing their hands over) the future of schools and education. We’ve focused mostly on technology, on the distribution of scarce economic resources, and on the changes wrought by an increasingly strategic and business-like approach to teaching and learning. We now have innumerable educational startups, alternative funding models, and methods of supporting or subverting (depending on your point of view) corporate interests. We’ve wrangled with these issues online, in our communities of scholarship, and in the public sphere. And we all agree on one thing: education is due for serious renewal and reinvigoration. But what that looks like is anyone’s guess. We just don’t know how the changes that lie before us will play themselves out, and this fundamental uncertainty has us either grappling toward a vision of total transformation or reaching back toward vanishing modes and practices (depending on your point of view). We are well and truly at sea.
In the first and second Mezzanine tutorials we explored ways of getting and started and building a project with Mezzanine. In this tutorial we’ll examine how to personalize the administration interface, how to tweak a few underlying settings, and how to build a customized theme. But before we travel too far down that track, it’s important to reinforce that these tutorials are intended to be exercises in intentional, self-reflective web development. These days most of us spend a great deal of time participating in online distractions and digital meandering. We have become less focused and mindful than we might be, and we have surrendered much of our attentional autonomy to the persistent keening of technology. Compare, for example, our online habits to the activities for which 200,000 years of evolution have prepared us. The online wanderer sits, shifts focus every few seconds, constantly responds to new stimuli, rides a constant wave of subliminal anxiety rooted in the dread of being left behind. The ancestral nomad of our evolutionary past stands, holds a fierce and singular focus (on an animal, or a stretch of landscape, or a work of craft), remains in the present moment of engagement and experience, and rides a wave of mindful calm rooted in a sense of belonging to place and to people. We tend to look upon those ancient peoples as more primitive than ourselves. But is the modern, distracted, disconnected self more advanced than the ancients? Is the complexity of our technology a sufficient justification for our belief in our superiority? Or, instead, have we lost something fundamental, and do ancient approaches offer important wisdom?
In the first Mezzanine tutorial we explored various philosophies and approaches to web development using Mezzanine, Django, and Python. The emphasis of that tutorial was on why as much as what. We tend to be reflexive and impressionable in how we choose technologies: we want the new and shiny thing, or we want what others have, or we want what’s easiest. And in the rush to be in the game, to be at the forefront, to ride that turbulent wave of innovation, we often forget to ask deeper questions: why are we doing this, whom does it serve, what do we want? And now, as technologies increasingly drive social culture, the tools we use are themselves voices in that conversation. The technologies speak back to us: they shape us and drive us forward. And so — as I suggested in the first Mezzanine tutorial — our creativity, autonomy, and personal development are woven together with the technologies we use. And further: it would not be hyperbolic in the least to suggest that our very humanity depends on our mindful use of technologies. After all, we are the only species that is dependent on technology for survival. Technology is foundational to who we are. And yet, as we become increasingly dependent on digital technologies, we are also becoming less mindful about their use. This is the central dilemma we now face with digital culture: how to choose wisely in an environment ruled by impulse and reflexivity.