Beyond The Electronic Friend

When I walked outside today, I had a mindful moment to notice my environment – the weather, nature, buildings, and various sounds experienced. Upon further mindfulness, I observed numerous people walking by – not socializing, not making eye contact, not talking…but rather looking down into the electronic device in their palm.
As much as technology has advanced the world, how much of it has negatively impaired the ways we spend time with others? Of course, such social media (including this site) has created easy access for everyone around the world to notice. I cannot argue with such convenience. Although, to what point do we say “no electronics” in order to rebuild the face-to-face (not Facebook-to-Facebook) conversations?

As a counselor, I tend to give clients my full face-to-face attention. In previous work settings, it was permitted to take counseling notes on the computer while in session with clients. I can see the benefits of doing so in certain settings that value time and schedules over client connection, but this is not my style. Beyond the electronic friend, there is a human being who came to my office in search for another human being (not a cyber-human) for help. It is a client who desires a counselor who can make an authentic connection with, not through an electric screen or speaker.

Next quarter, I will be teaching my first college class officially. To fulfill the many modalities of learning (e.g., visual, audio, kinetic, reading, writing), I plan to use an array of learning methods. Every classroom has a computer with speakers, which I assume is for the PowerPoint presentations and similar works. This is wonderful. I’m all for such advanced presentations, although I’m very curious of what it would be like to have a class where there is minimal electronics. Sure, we have the lights as electronics – I won’t go so far as to conduct a class only using the light from windows or candlelight. However, what about the times where an instructor teaches mostly through voice and inspiration? Are chalkboards the thing of the past, and soon dry-erase boards will be also?

Learning has frequently been an area of interest for me. I desire to know even more about how to connect with students inside, and outside, the classrooms. I’m thinking that my future classes can involve a mix of electronic use and non-electronic learning. Although, what would happen if a student requires such electronic needs? Can it be minimized to where material can still be visual but not electronic?

I reflect upon my childhood moments where riding bicycles with neighborhood friends and playing family board games were the ways to connect socially. I remember the times paper books and slide projectors (the ones where teachers wrote in clear plastic sheets with a dry-erase pen) were used in my classrooms. I compare that to today’s norm of more electronic books (e.g., Kindles), PowerPoint and TV projectors, electronic apps that kindergarteners use to learn and the numerous social media apps that allow texts versus talk. I am all for the use of advanced technology to assist learning around the world. Although, to what point can we put away the electronic friend and be physically (and mindfully) present to the person next to us? I’m wondering how much the new generation of students would actually like this to some degree, especially in the academic setting.


One thought on “Beyond The Electronic Friend

  1. Thanks for bringing up these points on the benefits of including technology-free time in our classes. I think good class activities serve the dual purpose of enforcing learning targets and teaching students to speak their minds among strangers. These conversations build into friendships that make classes more talkative and good-spirited. Technology tends to induce spectatorship, if one person is controlling the technology–and distraction, if everyone has their own device. I enjoy old school debates, circling desks, and group work in which students are provoked to voice opinions and cooperate on creative endeavors.


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