In a recent study by Florida Atlantic University, it was found that listeners could tangibly “feel” the passion of a musical piece when played by a human, rather than a computer. In essence, this study states that human brain activity sends a signal of emotion when it detects passion from the nuances of the player. What I find so interesting about that is the connection piece of the communication puzzle that we embody every day. How many times do you come into your room or office, say hi to a few colleagues, put the things in your arms down and immediately turn to a computer screen? I gonna bet that most people do that every day. It’s a way of life. My to-do list today started off with a few emails that needed to go out, updating my blog, sending out links via my social networks and then getting myself organized through my online planbook. Does this sound familiar? It should. And there’s nothing wrong with it. Except…..
Human engagement and interaction is necessary to our very existence. We naturally crave those moments when we can make a personal connection with another human being. Our brain starts firing different synapses, our very body begins producing chemicals and reactions to what is being said or done, and suddenly we are changed (for better or worse) based upon that instant when we made a human connection. The same cannot be said for virtual communication. It’s kind of like generic soda. It’s okay – maybe even great – but nothing is going to be the same as the original.
We have a lot to learn from this as educators. Schools they are a changin’ and technology and cyberschools are hot buttons right now leading the way of change. If you read this blog enough, you’ll find that I support these kinds of innovations whole-heartedly. But, we must be careful. Too much of a good thing really can do harm. We want to encourage our students and ourselves to get away from those computer screens, away from the chatting and even from the virtual learning and be a witness to what else is out in the “real” world. Connect with the earth again. Listen to a beautiful symphony and hear the emotion and feel that very passion within your own being. Look with your eyes at the feast of a genius work of art and allow it to spur questions and answers to your personal world. Experience the physical joy of laughter with a good friend. These are things that can’t come from our virtual environments. And as educators in a world where technology is everywhere, this is difficult. You’ll see – try turning off every technological device you have (including your phone). You’ll feel naked, as if you’ve misplaced your very being. Yet, it can be a freeing moment as well when you realize that your identity is not the screen name that you use, but rather the person that you are.
Which brings me to another idea – that in our classrooms and in our lives, we need to work on our communication skills. We need to understand that our actions and our words have meaning and can evoke emotions from another human being. Too often, we shoot off an email that we would never say in person. Why is that? Because the screen hides our faces? That’s not living and working with integrity. We need to be reminded that when we connect with others, we must communicate from a 3-dimensional level: theirs, our own, and ours together. What is it that the person is offering to this situation? What am I bringing? What can we bring to this together? By using this small reminder, we’ll save ourselves a lot of headaches.
Often, I hear from teachers that their students’ writing is so terrible because they write like they text. Teachers debate whether or not to teach to the “text”. Do we allow and encourage this because it enables faster communication, or do we hold to the properties of grammar and expect our students to develop quality sentences? Personally, I think it’s a little of both. I think that if the shorthand of “text” writing allows students to get their ideas out faster and thus be able to be more imaginative, then by all means allow them to use it. But, in the end the students should be able to translate that into good quality writing, because writing is an art. It’s another way to elicit passion from people. Passion, which is so desperately craved by our brains that it produces a chemical, physical and emotional response within the deep recesses of our beings.
In the end, the means does make a difference when it comes to connections. The ways in which we communicate with others has morphed with good and bad consequences. As educators, we need to understand this change, but also embrace the moments when we can get that intense, passionate response. Because when that happens, the real learning begins and the glow of a computer monitor is simply a background light.