by Randy Fairfield, 5/19/15
In his 1953 classic, Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury wrote about a dystopian society plagued by pervasive technology. Part of the reason why Fahrenheit has become a classic is that his dystopia is eerily reflective of our society today. As an advocate for the use of technology in the classroom, Fahrenheit has repeatedly challenged me to ask myself: Am I a part of the problem Bradbury wrote about?
One of the travesties Bradbury warned of in Fahrenheit was the death of intellectualism via the combination of technology and mass media. In an era where phrases like “fake news” and “post truth politics” have become prevalent, the following passage—which very much reads like what happens these days when someone scrolls through their social media feeds—feels especially relevant:
“Beatty ignored her and continued: ‘Speed up the film, Montag, quick. Click? Pic? Look, Eye, Now, Flick, Here, There, Swift, Pace, Up, Down, In, Out, Why, How, Who, What, Where, Eh? Uh! Bang! Smack! Wallop, Bing, Bong, Boom! Digest-digests, digest-digest-digests. Politics? One column, two sentences, a headline! Then, in mid-air, all vanishes! Whirl man’s mind around about so fast under the pumping hands of publishers, exploiters, broadcasters, that the centrifuge flings off all unnecessary, time-wasting thought!'”
Bradbury certainly hit the nail on the head in Fahrenheit, and I don’t think even he could have fully appreciated how pervasive and invasive technology would become in our world in such short order. Fahrenheit was written as a hyperbolic expression of the direction he feared society was heading, yet in many ways read now reads like an understatement of the direction we’ve gone.
As such, I am not so quick to dismiss educators resistant to incorporating technology in their classrooms. For reasons that resonate similar to Bradbury’s concerns, some educators cite the idea that “technology is making is dumber” as a reason for keeping it out of their classroom. Indeed, this spoken-world poetry by Prince EA delivers a powerful message that highlights many of these concerns and more:
In response to the argument that technology is making us dumber, I don’t think it’s the technology itself but rather how we use it. As a technology/instructional coach, one of my greatest passions is helping both teachers and students be more self-aware of the way they use technology in their everyday lives and in the classroom. This self-awareness is foundational to helping teachers use technology in ways that promote higher order thinking in ways that would not be possible if the technology was not otherwise present.