Friday, March 20, 2009

RJS op-ed in today's Ottawa Citizen

The Friday, March 20, 2009, edition of the Ottawa Citizen -- the largest circulation newspaper in Canada's capital city -- has an op-ed piece by me entitled "All Screens Are Not Created Equal" about multitasking, computer use, and attention deficit disorder. At some point it will go behind the subscribers-only wall, but right now it's free to read online right here.

An op-ed is a signed opinion piece that appears opposite the editoral in a newspaper; it is an opinion piece by someone other than the paper's editorial writer. You can find older op-eds by me here (scroll down).

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site



At March 20, 2009 8:18 AM , Blogger H Don said...

"But multitasking will. We should embrace and encourage it in our young -- because, just as it was in the ancient past, it will forevermore be a key survival skill."

YUP. If I wasn't able to multitask, I would not have the successful business I do.

At March 20, 2009 9:06 AM , Blogger Andrew Zimmerman Jones said...

Rob, I wonder if you've any opinion about the One Laptop Per Child program, which seeks to provide affordable, green laptops to children in the developing world, to help with learning. This seems like a program that is in line with the sort of future you envision in your op-ed, and will ensure that more children have the ability to develop and leverage their abilities in the growing/flattening world stage.

At March 20, 2009 9:07 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

One Laptop Per Child seems like a great idea to me, Andrew. :)

At March 20, 2009 10:46 AM , OpenID rvitelli said...

"has an op-ed piece by me entitled "All Screens Are Not Created Equal" about multitasking, computer use, and attention deficit disorder."

I'll get around to reading it as soon as I have time to give it my undivided attention. I don't do multitasking well.

At March 20, 2009 12:00 PM , Blogger zafri said...

As someone just finishing my B.Ed program, I found your article quite interesting.

First I think we need to reconsider what schools are actually for. Are they for preparing students for the job market? Are they for cramming students with information? Are they for teaching students to be adaptable, hard-working, and respectful citizens? This seems to be a question society ignores, with the hopes that it will all just work itself out in the end. With all the talk in my program about backwards design, doesn't it make sense to look at the end goals of schools and work backwards to revise curriculum? However, I don't want to point the finger at any individual or system in particular, but the system as a whole seems to need a new outlook. (I also don't profess to be an expert on the subject, however, since I am only just now completing the program, so read this with a few grains of salt)

While I agree that we need to make a shift away from the traditional mode of imparting information, I wonder how can better incorporate new technologies into our classrooms. The one laptop per child seems like an amazing tool, but we don't even have that here in Canada. The problem is resource scarcity; we don't even have enough to money to make sure that every classroom (or even most) has a projector with a laptop and internet connection.

Some online tools such as google docs are incredibly helpful in allowing students to collaborate on documents in groups without needing to be in the same physical locale. The tools are there for students to use technology to succeed. I'd like to allow most of the learning to happen in the classroom though, since I believe the social lives of students are also very important. It's very difficult to do so when there are problems booking computer labs or media carts.

"We shouldn't pack our brain full of facts and figures; instead, we should train ourselves to be able to quickly absorb and synthesize all the myriad sources of information that are available to us."
Agreed. The ability to learn and adapt is incredibly important in this day and age, but curriculum documents make this problematic. They are fantastic guides, but importance promotes the use of textbooks as an easier way of making sure that all curriculum goals have been completed. This isn't as big a problem with the Language Arts curriculum, but that isn't the only subject I will be teaching.

We still have a long way to go with regards to incorporating technologies into the practice of teaching. It should not be difficult to find online information about good activities to use on various subjects. I still find myself spending a great deal of time looking online and finding a marginal number of high quality information. It could quite possibly be due to the fact that teachers already have too much to do, but who knows.

I'd like to hear your thoughts :)

At March 20, 2009 7:19 PM , Blogger Annie said...

Bright piece! As someone who is always multi-tasking, this wasn't something I ever thought was "new." However, since I've been googling astronomy lately, I'm still impressed how much I remember from my luddite childhood in a poor factory town in the 70s, when "Planets" were pieces of styrofoam stuck on pipe-cleaners! The fascination and just plain satisfaction of knowing about a galaxy was something that I miss now, when information is just a click away.


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