When does education stifle or retard technical and usage innovation? I am not sure, but it is something that I have been thinking more about over the past several months. The United States has been a hotbed of technical innovation, and many people I speak have a growing concern that we are losing our edge. Have we become over confident and lost the burning desire to innovate or does a generation simply need to absorb the changes and prime society for another creativity and innovation burst?
I recently finished reading a book (Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning) that makes the case on why we need to educate people of how to use online social media tools in order for them to effectively participate in the modern online culture. The book is thought provoking especially when you understand the usage differences among various groups of young adults.
After reading the book, I started to agree that we should consider the formal education of students in the YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter services of the world. Then I started to get that nagging feeling that it may be a mistake. If by educating people in the “proper” use these tools, we place them in an artificial “box” that stifles their creativity. I know that my thoughts have been influenced by the educators that I have studied under, and while they did their best to remain neutral, they did impact how I use and see technology.
I understand that the opposite can be said as well. That without a base level of understanding people cannot effectively use technology or improvise new uses and enhancements. This is a very sad but real situation of the modern era. I have worked with many people over the years that know so little about computers or the Internet that they could not participate in an online community. They are effectively locked out of participation and completely bared from being able to contribute to an online innovation.
Where does this leave us, or me? Why, I am still pondering the issue of course. Personally, I have limited my instruction that I give my children on social media and online technologies so as not to influence their usage, one way or another. I am available as a resource should they have questions, but I have opted for a more “play with it” educational approach. I am aware of my own biases regarding an online culture and do not wish to taint their views. Still, I cannot allow them to go into the wilds of the Internet unprepared so neutrality or ignoring the online danger is not realistic either.
We need to find the minimally effective education level for social media and online technologies. Give the youth of the world an understanding of the basic functions and then get out of their way. The younger generations will lead the way with new innovations provided, we do not muck up their thinking with too many rules about what can or should be done with social media and other online technologies.
The future of tech is very exciting, and I cannot wait to see what the next twenty years will bring.