School Shmool: Teaching Critical Technology Thinking

School Shmool: Teaching Critical Technology Thinking As the end-of-school bell rings, middle schoolers immediately reach into sweatshirt pockets and colorful backpacks to reunite with their smartphones. Suddenly, the frenzy of voices is joined by the ding of new messages. Amidst the clanging lockers, students pose for photos with friends and giggle at the latest Snapchat filters. Even goodbye waves are accompanied with reminders to send messages or add each other to the latest group chat. In their personal lives and in schools, most students eagerly embrace innovative technology and quickly gain tech fluency especially when it comes to smartphones. While proficient technology use is important, it’s not enough to prepare students to make thoughtful decisions. As the world’s future decision makers, our students must wrestle with the costs, benefits, promises, and perils of technology. National Geographic reporter Robert Draperpoints out that technology often offers the best and worst at the exact same time. In other words, most new tech isn’t all good or all bad. New infrared cameras can help save endangered pandas, for example, but they can also subject us to Orwellian surveillance. In order for students to critically evaluate the technology they use, they need more than how-to classes. Proficient smartphone use doesn’t mean you can reasonably consider how it’s impacting your life or when you should put your phone away to focus on other things. Learning to code is great but it doesn’t prepare you to consider the way algorithms shape the social media world. Instead of just teaching students how to use technology, let’s also teach them how to think about it. Below, I offer...