Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction is the latest NYT piece pondering the perplexing challenge of technology in modern society, this time with a focus on students. This is an endlessly fascinating topic to me, but I’m always very frustrated with what passes for journalism in these stories.
This is a lengthy, A1 story in the weekend paper, but it does little to illuminate the topic. Here’s how I would summarize the story: “Students lack the self-discipline to do their homework because of easy access to technology and the diverting experiences it enables. Technology is good, but this behavior is bad. Teachers don’t know what to do about it, and parents do little about it, too.” Boring, right?
Come on, NYT. We’ve already done the hand-wringing. You say that plugged-in students lack focus, but guess what? So does the story itself. Instead of rolling modern life into one big mess of tangled wires, let’s get specific: Start looking at specific problems (in this example, say: parenting and technology, or technology aptitude and the college application process, or technology use in the classroom) and specific solutions (e.g., media literacy 2.0, how parents and educators are setting boundaries that work, profiles of teachers who are making low-tech learning effective for high-tech students, etc.).
Or, for starters, let’s start making important distinctions between differences in technology use. Facebook and Final Cut Pro are very different technology distractions. Texting in class, texting during homework, and texting during dinner are all separate behaviors worth treating differently, both in a story and in real life. Treat them that way. Once you break experience down, you can begin to ask the real questions about what’s good, what’s bad, what’s neutral — and what should we do about it?
OK, I know this is just sort of a rant, not a real post, but come on. I care about this stuff. Can’t we get some good coverage out there? This where you, my occasional readers, make recommendations on better articles, books, and other media to feed my brain.