I remember when I was young watching one of my sisters and her best friend play with dolls at our house over the weekend. They would take over my parent’s bedroom and use the books we had at home to design a ‘house’ in which their dolls would live. There would be much discussion about how it should look and which rooms should be included. The house would change – sometimes large and sprawling and sometimes small and spare. Once it was built, they would play with their dolls in that house for the weekend. On Sunday just before dinner, the house would be dismantled and everything returned to the toy box to wait for the next sleepover visit.
My friends and I collected the thickest and longest elastic bands we could find and tied them together. As the elastic band ‘string’ got longer, we’d begin to roll it up into a ball. Once it was completed, we would visit each other bringing our ball of elastic bands with us. Then we would play ‘yoki’ for hours – jumping over the elastic bands at ankle, then knee, then hang, all the way up to arms’ reach. I remember that we were not allowed to touch the elastic bands at all with any part of our body as we jumped over it until we passed ‘hang’. We played handball against the side of the house – bounce the ball against the side of the house [the higher the better] and then jump over the ball once it hit the ground. We had to catch the ball before it bounced on the ground again or we would lose our turn. I remember playing ‘hide and seek’ with the kids on the street with each of us trying to find the best place to hide so that we would not be found. Our main goal was to race back to touch ‘home’ once we were found before the person who was ‘it’. If we didn’t reach ‘home’ first, we would then be ‘it’. No one wanted to be ‘it’. I also remember playing skipping games and playing with marbles. I remember riding my grey tricycle up and down the street as fast I could with our cocker spaniel, Bear, running along beside me.
We played with what we had or could make. Our games were simple. They did not require expensive components. During the summer, we’d go outside to play right after breakfast and would stay outside until it was time to come home for lunch or dinner. We were loud and noisy and we laughed and we were active. We were kids living without being encumbered by stuff – expensive toys, iPods, iPads, ereaders, cell phones.
We used our imaginations to create our play world. We actually talked to each other. We wrote in long hand. We learned basic math skills by practicing them. We spoke on the telephone. We interacted socially. Through all of this, we learned valuable lessons about ourselves and how to live in the world with different people.
Now, kids go to school with cell phones. They use computers to check their spelling and grammar for them as they write. They can access information readily [including pre-written essays]. They use graphing calculators to do the calculations required for their math homework. They have iPads and iPods and Blackberries. Information technology is so much a given in their lives. They take its presence for granted.
From my point of view, IT is a very mixed blessing. I’m not a Luddite crying for a simpler, easier time when we lived on the land – before the rise of industry and invention. I do appreciate that I can access information via the internet. I really appreciate how much easier it is to write and to revise and edit without having to physically re-write or re-type my work. Cell phones are great tools providing convenience so that when I’m away from home, I don’t have to search out a payphone if I need to call anyone.
However, I can acknowledge the negative impact of all this sort of technology on all our lives. The students I taught generally had poor cursive writing skills. They had not had to develop legible handwriting when all their assignments could be generated on a computer and could even be submitted electronically. They had terrible spelling. Why should they have to hone spelling skills when the computer would do it for them? They usually had poor basic math skills since the calculator could do all the math operations for them. They did not need to add, subtract, multiply, or divide. Once they had learned the formula of how to enter information into the calculator, their work was done. They might sit at a computer or use their cell phones to text message each other and to check out chat rooms and check out what their friends are saying on Facebook, or Linkedin, or Twitter. At the end of the day, they might have spent their day on the ‘net’ and have sat by themselves as they did so. They might feel that they have been somewhere and done something but they won’t have. They would have lived another day in ‘the blue nowhere’ without any live interaction with another human being.
There are those who say that the internet has the power to bring us together. That may be true on some remote plane of existence but what the ‘net’ and all the other forms of information technology do is isolate us from each other. That’s the price we pay for all this technology and convenience.
Think of the confusion that could arise if all of this ease and convenience, all of this IT were gone in a nano second. What would our world be like then? Would our children be able to cope without their IT toys? It boggles the mind.