Manifesto: Michele Stulga

1. If technology is to be readily implemented in the education system, then educators should be given the necessary tools and support to make proper use of technology in the classroom.
I believe that two things are very true about education and technology: (1) technology can provides resources that enhance learning, and (2) whether or not we agree with the previous statement, it is impossible to keep technology out of the education system because technology has become such an integral part of the human experience. So, if technology being implemented in the education system is basically inevitable, shouldn’t we be prepared to use it to our benefit, to use it to its highest potential? I have had a personal experience in a school system where new technologies were introduced, but the teachers were not familiar enough with the technology to make real use of it. In fact, sometimes the technology hindered learning in the classroom because the teacher would spend a significant amount of class time trying to figure out the technology. In those situations, it became apparent that, often time, the students understood the technology better and would spend time trying to teach the teachers. Pretty backwards, no? Because the younger generations have technology engrained in their humanity, it’s easier for them (for us) to adopt and adapt to new technologies much quicker. There need to be efforts to close that generational learning gap—especially in the case of educators. For me, this means more seminars, more training. It could even mean that teachers being evaluated on their technological know-how. I believe in this idea because an increase in technology will never work without an increased understanding of technology—and that goes for our teachers, too!
(Who’s Afraid of Digital Natives?)

2. If our youth is plagued with chronic inattention and a distracted disposition, then we should conduct further tests and studies to better understand this phenomenon.
It seems pretty obvious to me that there is something very different about the way the minds of our younger generations work. Some may call it an increased ability to multitask, others rampant ADD, but clearly, a lacking in attention span has become a phenomenon among youth. According to a Common Sense survey that polled teachers, 71% said that they believed technology to be a major factor in the distracted dispositions of their students. There seems to be a controversy over whether or not this distractedness is a good thing or a bad thing. One view argues that our education system needs to adapt to this change, while the other wants to challenge (perhaps counter) the change. At the end of the day, however, I believe that this phenomenon is largely unexplored and lacking in research. If we believe it to be a prominent issue, then we have an obligation to try to learn more about it. How can we even determine whether this change in attention span is positive or negative if we don’t have all the information? How can we propose an informed solution without being informed? If knowledge really is power, then I believe the first step to taking control of this issue is understanding it in the first place.
(Technology is Changing How Students Learn, Teachers say)

3. Libraries should be maintained as necessary public facilities that combine the traditional and the technological.
There appears to be a battle between print and digital media. Which is better? Which is more convenient? Which is more reliable? Personally, I believe that both have value. However, as technology is on the rise, funding has been dramatically cut for our more traditional institutions—namely, libraries. While some may believe that libraries are obsolete facilities that are clinging to outdated services, I believe that libraries are still completely relevant and even necessary, yes, necessary. Largely, I think it is obvious that libraries have embraced technology. For instance, Virginia Tech has an abundance of online resources (databases, journals, etc.), a wireless network, and easy to use printing and copying stations. And yes, it also has an insane collection of print materials as well. If I want to conduct resource, no place is better than the library as it combines the best of both worlds—both traditional and technological. Where the pursuit of information, history, and culture is concerned, I think it is extremely important to acknowledge that “not every experience can be digitized.”
(Why libraries still matter)

4. Technology should not be utilized as a substitute for “real life”—especially in regards to human relationships.
I can’t imagine that many of you actually read through my entire individual research project for this class, but I examined how smartphone technology affects intimacy in romantic relationship. I found that technology, in this instance, has both positive and negative effects. But I think one overall concept came out of my research: that technology can enhance or inhibit relationships (as a supplement), BUT it should take the place of relationships entirely. I conducted three different surveys in my research, and most participants reported that, while technology can be quite useful to maintain relationships while not physically with a person, it is not a better alternative to face-to-face interactions. That is, if one has to choose a real live conversation versus a technologically mediated conversation, the former wins almost every time. The more and more we allow technology to stand in for our real life interactions and relationships, the more and more we compromise what it means to have human relationships. Ultimately, I am arguing that technology is just fine as a supplement to human interaction and relationships, but it should never fully take the place of them.

5. For primary through secondary education, a “real life” school experience should be maintained as the status quo over a virtual school experience.
Children’s development is largely taken into consideration regarding learning and education systems. Our current education system requires a complete emersion into a learning environment—a physical learning environment. I believe that this physical environment (made up of teachers and peers, schedules and routines, print and digital resources, etc.) is crucial to a child’s development. According to Baroness Greenfield, and Oxford professor, human interaction is imperative for children to develop “basic social skills and emotional reactions.” Because technology often isolates one from human contact, the more children use technology, the less time spent physically interacting with others. Greenfield reported that the majority of 13 to 17-year-olds spend over 30 hr/week using screen based technology. School, often times, offers a break from that. While virtual schools and online classes become more of a reality, I believe that they should not be implemented as substitutes for students in primary or secondary schools. The physical school environment could very well be the most human contact a student experience, and I believe it is crucial to maintain that.
(Twitter and Facebook ‘harming children’s development’)

6. Human beings should not strive to create sentient technology.
I’m not even sure I can articulate past one word why I believe so strongly in this statement: FEAR. There is something incredibly unnerving about the idea of creating life out of machines—living technology. It is already pretty creepy to what extent we have been able to create robots and other technologies that mimicks human life. I think our class demonstrated a strong resistance against the idea of technology “wanting” anything because wanting implies mental faculties, which implies actual thinking. I think my biggest reservation with the whole thing is the question of why. Why would we even want to create sentient technology? Why would that be useful? Why would it be worth the risk? And by risk, yes, I am referring to the plot of every sci-fi film that portrays robots taking control of the earth. Would it be an awesome feat? Oh, absolutely. I think I just need much more motivation for trying to do so, other than just because it’s the next big thing that we haven’t achieved. At the end of the day, I don’t see why mimicking isn’t enough. As long as we can manipulate technology to do the things we want, what is the need for that technology to think and potentially feel things? For these reason, I do not believe it would be smart or responsible to strive to create sentient technology. The consequences outweigh the benefits.
(Body and Soul)(Video: Will Artificial Intelligence Turn Evil & Against Humans?) (What Technology Wants)