Taming the Technology Beast

From the Desk of Rachel DeMille…

The times, they are a-changin’.

Ten years ago, most of our effort was spent helping parents to recapture their own Core and Love of Learning.

Back then the Big Prize was Adult Scholar Phase, and everyone was talking about how to prepare for it, and how to fit it in to Getting Off the Conveyor Belt.

While TJEd is attracting new adherents all the time, there are many, many people who have been at this a while.

Used to be I could count the TJEd’ers I knew in Mission Phase on my fingers.

Now I probably don’t have enough beans in the house to do the math.

This means that the rising generation is in the unique position of actually doing Scholar Phase before they leave home, and fulfilling Depth Phase before they even have children. Isn’t that exciting?

In some very important ways, we are seeing the realization of our dreams!

Classics and Mentors are no longer relics of the past.

They are everywhere spoken of and sought after. The principles of freedom and prosperity are no longer the domain of the fringe, but topics of blogs and books–really, of entire movements in pop culture.

We’re witnessing a tsunami of change.

When several years ago we suggested limits on computers in the TJEd model, in most people’s lives they had one of two uses: Serious Work or Serious Play.

Based on that, our position on computers as a learning tool was that Only Adults Have The Maturity To Reap The Benefits And Avoid The Negative Consequences.

And in context, that was right on.

Core and Love of Learning still don’t need lots of bells and whistles, and the purpose of these Foundational Phases is to facilitate the development of personality, moral identity and the beginnings of a worldview.

This applies whether you are 7 or 77.

Time spent with the TV and the computer so easily fills that “right kind of vacuum” that is the genesis of imaginative play, meditative thought, creative learning, refinement of skills/talents/relationships, making friends with books, etc.

I still get emails all the time from frustrated parents (and frantic wives) about the encroachment of computer playtime into the family culture and learning environment.

Clearly, some people get sucked into the vortex of “entertainment,” and it becomes addictive and even destructive.

But to characterize all computer time as dangerous or wasteful is not only backward, but something akin to swearing off refrigerators.

Sure, eating fresh from the garden can’t be beat; but when the produce reaches its peak it’s nice to be able to keep it fresh for a few more days.

In the same way, books will never go out of style, and live one-on-one time with friends is irreplaceable; but there actually is something new under the sun that not only is worth our time, but is so much a part of the current trends that to opt out is to render ourselves and our children mute in the Great Conversation.

Over the years computers have gone from pure commerce and pure diversion to now encompassing the worst and the best of pursuits, from leisure to innovation and everything in between.

They are every day more and more integrated into virtually every aspect of life–education, the arts, scientific discovery, family relations (including genealogy, journaling and correspondence), news and current events, thought-leader dialog via editorials, blogs, forums and other comment-media, etc.

As the use and benefits of computers have changed, so has our position regarding their best application in the TJEd model.

In my last message, I ended with this thought:

As proponents of “Leadership” Education, if we are reliant on experts and if others are “leading” the cutting edge in so influential an arena
[as technology and online communication], have we missed an important cue? …if [this] is not a question we consider as we mentor our children and as we guide them in their choice of activities and educational options, we just might be underserving their future needs, and requiring them to later play “catch-up” on some important skills….

As with the 7 Keys and the 5 Environments, this is best applied in the context of the Phases.

In the TJEd Home Companion we have some really great “adult skills” lists that help us with our kids transitioning to scholar phase.

I am in the process of putting together a “tech skills” list that for many of us and our youth is critical to our making a difference. Here are some thoughts, as they come to me…

  1. Most kids should learn to type. You can find online typing resources here and here, and ask on TJEdMUSE for others’ suggestions. If you can think and type at the same time, you are able to communicate in this fast-paced world in a variety of forums and venues.
  2. Most kids (and their mentors) should know their way around an html editor. If you don’t know what this is, just go have a look at the comments section of your page on TJEdOnline Community. It has many of the features available in standard html editors. I have given suggestions on how to use its features here. Further instruction is available here.If you have ever brushed up on your French to visit Paris, you need to understand that when you’re online, html is a language that the natives speak. And if it seems daunting it’s because you’ve never really given it much attention–because you really can do it. You too can be a master of the online universe when you learn to use an html editor.
  3. Most youth (and their mentors) should cultivate long-distance friendships online. This is touchy for some, and if you find it offensive you can either ignore me completely and be at peace or reconsider your current position. I have absolutely no doubt that for some kids and families this is exactly the wrong thing, and if yours is one of them, I’m glad you have the sense to reject my suggestion.But for those this does not describe, I am just saying: there’s a great work to be done in the next fifty years, and our kids are going to need solid allies and an elaborate network of like-minded people in order to prevaiI. Social networking is not only a time waster and a bane but a also great, great blessing. It requires educating ourselves about it and having principles and guidelines that govern participation in order to fully reap the benefits and avoid the pitfalls.Like I said last time: driver’s licenses, peer relationships, dessert–all these demand that we make thoughtful decisions about their optimal place in our life and time. Same for socializing online. It’s one more thing we have to think about, one more detail we have to manage; but I think it’s hugely important, and I think we’re remiss if we don’t consider how it might apply to ourselves and our youth.

    It’s kind of cool that the law requires that a youth be 13 years old before having a personal account with an online network. I think this fits well with most of our kids. Before that, it’s too great a distraction, and they don’t have the abstract reasoning or the maturity to understand and adhere to the rules of privacy and online safety, in my observation. For social networking I prefer this site and Facebook, and I don’t care for MySpace. Here are some rules for online safety for beginners.

When I’m all finished with it there will be skills separated into levels of proficiency–basic stuff “everyone” should know, and then additional levels beyond that, depending on mission and interest.

Off the top of my head it’s shaping up like this…

Learn to:

  1. type
  2. use Microsoft Word, including font sizes and styles, tables, columns, footnotes, text boxes, inserting images, links and breaks, etc.
  3. create a pdf and send it by email
  4. load a picture to your computer
  5. create a video using your phone, computer or camera
  6. use an html editor
  7. post images, videos and articles online
  8. use a screen sharing platform
  9. use a wiki
  10. Use live learning platforms like GoToMeeting and Elluminate
  11. manage a blog

Avoid Spam:

  • forwarded emails. Ask friends not to forward to you, and instruct youth not to forward.
  • Bill Gates is not sharing his fortune, Mars is not going to pass close to earth this Fall, Ashley Flores has not just disappeared. Use snopes or other myth-buster sites to check your facts so you don’t end up embarrassing yourself or wasting others’ time.

There’s more to share, but this is long enough for today.

I would appreciate your input on the topic and your suggestions for the list.

xoxo rd

P.S. You really should join us on Facebook!

About the Author:

Rachel is the co-author of Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning and the audio series Core and Love of Learning: A Recipe for Success, and the author of the award-winning educational resource, This Week in History. She is an accomplished musician, writer, literary editor, public speaker, consultant and momschool organizer.

One Comment

  1. […] standards and rules–just as we do in the other aspects of their education and socialization. I have written elsewhere about my feelings on leveraging these important things using the […]

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