A Different Point of View…

Every year Rotary International holds a public speaking contest for young people in our school district. The structure and format of the speeches follow a detailed rubric, and students must follow these guidelines closely. This year the theme of the contest is “The Future of Your Community”, and it can be explored literally or with a more creative viewpoint. Imagine my pride when I discovered that my 12 year old daughter chose to write and speak about technology. I have included the text of her speech as she “guest blogs” the rest of this post for me. I know she would love to read your comments.

The Future of Technology in My Community

by Willa Holmwood

Imagine it’s a beautiful, sunny day outside. The wind is gently blowing and birds are  joyfully chirping.  As you sit on your computer you think to yourself, “what’s wrong with this picture?” It’s astonishing to realize that the average teenager spends over thirty hours in front of a screen every week. This caused me to think about what our future would be like in our community if we continued spending this much time online.

For this speech, I decided to list some pros and cons of using technology such as televisions and computers. Here are some reasons why they might have a negative impact in the future.

When you are on the computer, the only people you interact with are the people who are online. This can create poor social skills when you actually go to talk to somebody outside of the screen world. Because the fact that many Internet sites or games can be addictive, it becomes harder and harder to let go and eventually you start missing out on fun opportunities. Once when I came home from school I noticed that I was on facebook, my mom was on her computer, and my dad was on his. We all realized that technology shouldn’t rule our life and that we had the control and the power to turn it off. Instead of staring at a picture of a tree on a computer screen, why don’t we venture outside and go and climb one? Besides these reasons, over-using computers can hurt your  health. Common problems are back pains, sore necks, achy wrists, and dry eyes. What might happen to our community if we do not address these concerns?    I’m definitely not against technology; in fact I love it and use it every day! But when we spend too much time using it, and not enough time enjoying the real world, it can become an issue.

Fortunately, technology has some really fun and captivating things in it. Here are some reasons why it might make a positive impact in the future.

I think that the main reason people use computers or watch T.V is because it’s human nature to be curious. It’s an intriguing place to be. Online we explore and discover things we couldn’t even imagine. Another huge plus of technology is the amazing connections you can make. Meeting people all around the world and learning their customs and beliefs is an adventure. For instance, my mom is a teacher and blogs about education. She put a picture on her blog and the photographer, who is Greek but lives in Poland, posted a comment to say thanks. In Twitter she connects with other educators from all over the world – Australia, China, England, Finland, Japan, South Africa, and that’s just the start! It doesn’t get much cooler than that. Also, on the Internet you can share your own stories. Whether it’s with music, video, poetry, or even just writing, you can feel free to express your thoughts with the world.

As I look back, I realize that technology is really new and people are just learning how to use it properly. Myspace was only created in 2003, Facebook in 2006, and Twitter in 2007. These brand new technologies are exciting but it’s important to the future of our community that we take the time to learn about them.

So now imagine it’s a beautiful sunny day outside. The wind is gently blowing and birds are joyfully chirping. As you climb trees and play about you think to yourself, “what’s wrong with this picture?” The answer is absolutely nothing.

This is the future of our community.


11 responses to “A Different Point of View…

  1. Willa, you have a future in writing and in being a commentator who can see both sides of an issue. That’s such an important skill! Thanks for making me think. You provided a balanced view: you made me want to climb a tree but you also made me appreciate my online world with its international exchange of ideas. I look forward to reading more of your work (after I climb a few trees).

  2. Thanks so much for your post, Willa. I think your point regarding the novelty of these technologies is really a good one. Humans are certainly intrigued by these tools, curious (as you say), and it is often difficult to strike a balance between our offline and online worlds. I know this is an important struggle for me as much of my work is online, and when i want to ‘play’, it also tends to be online.

    It will be interesting to see how your generation handles these new issues. From a technology perspective, your generation will be the most connected of all time. I wonder what this will mean in terms of connections in different ways, such as to communities (as you mention in your final statement). I can only wish you and all of your peers the best, and hope you find the most healthy balance while finding deep and meaningful communities, both online and off.

    All the best.

  3. Fantastic post, Willa! Your reflections on the role of technology in our world are well thought out and well-stated. You make good points on both sides – technology is wonderful and necessary, but it can’t run our lives.

    If my son (8 years old) is able to express himself so skillfully in four years’ time, I’ll be thrilled! Thanks for letting your mom share your thoughts with us.

  4. andrewcymbalisty

    You know, I really appreciate your viewpoint of technology, for a number of reasons.

    When I was growing up, we didn’t have the option of staying inside on a nice day. I can remember my mom kicking us out to go and roll in the grass, climb trees, fight with our siblings (okay, maybe that last one wasn’t encouraged, but it seemed more ‘okay’ as long as it was outside). Some of my greatest adventures (and misadventures) occurred while exploring the great outdoors– whether in my own backyard or some random country field.

    I worry sometimes that the youth of today are going to miss out on those interactions that I had. I can remember exploring old barns and riding my bike on old railway tracks, shooting gophers, going fishing with my dad. It is really easy to forget about the beauty of the great outdoors and to focus it on whatever new piece of technology is online– i’m as guilty as any for that, as I find myself spending more and more time just exploring the internet.

    But technology has transformed into an amazing, connected, beautiful thing. Something like twitter for instance, that has the capability to connect you with someone from across the world in a click of a mouse, is something that I definitely would not want a student to miss out on either. Facebook has been a great connection tool for the members of my wide-spread family, and MySpace has allowed for my music to be distributed among the masses, even if i’m unable to tour myself.

    I think that we are fast becoming a society with more connections than ever before, in more places than ever before, with more people than ever before.

    Fantastic insight on your blog post– I enjoyed reading it because it reminded me that some people still like to stop and smell the roses, even though there are already people talking about how beautiful they smell.

  5. Great post Willa! As I am reading this, I look around my family room and there are my two sons, and my husband in the room with me but we are not talking, we are all staring into our laptops. Something is definitely wrong with this picture!
    We all love technology as well, and enjoy many of the benefits that you mentioned. However, it is very addictive and it is hard to turn it off and walk away. We realize our problem and we have tried to limit our time and put time limits on our computers but it hasn’t improved. It seems that we need some laptop police to enter our home and enforce it.
    Some of our best family times are in the hottub – no t.v. or computers there – so conversation actually takes place. My son is heading there now. . . I think I’ll join him.
    Continue this crusade Willa. We need help!

  6. Thank you, Willa!

    I think you have captured some of the key issues about community and the use of technology. I have been having conversations about “social media”…recognizing that social media is nothing new, it’s just the digital tools that are new. So how we use these tools to serve our goals, to enhance the process of building personal and professional relationships in order to share and create new knowledge, is critical.

    I appreciate your even-handed consideration of the pros/cons of online and offline communities and activities. It’s clear that you value both. In addition, you are aware of many pitfalls of overuse of the digital social media. On the other hand, you recognize how short-sighted it is to dismiss technology in today’s world.

    Well done! I wish you the best with the public speaking contest. I hope you will report back on the experience and results of the contest!

  7. Willa, a mature insight into the future of technology within our communities and indeed, globally. As long as we appreciate that we do hold the control over on/off, then there should be nothing to worry about. The way you write is mind blowing, especially to me, because the last time I saw you, you were only 3 going on 4!

    Anne-Marie, love the name of your blog (a Douglas Adams fan from waaay back!). What a clever and insightful young woman your daughter is! One day, hopefully, we’ll get to see you all again (either over here or us over there).

  8. I love the fact that you point out that “it’s human nature to be curious…online we explore and discover things we couldn’t even imagine.” Many who did not grow up with technology read books for the very same reason. Isn’t it great that technology is becoming more mobile…and that the lines between computers and books (and other media) are blurring? Imagine the places we’ll explore when we take the tools along!

  9. Hi Willa. Enjoyed your essay. Very well done. Strong sentence structure with a clear purpose but I especially liked your thesis and punch line. Terrific conclusion; however, I politely disagree. I see a dramatic drop in play and exploration of our natural world. I even see a huge drop in exploration of domestic things like baking. My wife teaches grade 4 and bakes once a week in a rotating schedule. She sees kids who have never cracked an egg or touched butter. I think children are under exposed to the natural world around them and overexposed to screens. This worries me because looking after our planet will need kids who climb trees and explore ponds and eventually dive in oceans.
    All my worries aside, you go along way in helping by writing such thoughtful blog posts! I hope to read more from such an articulate and smart girl. How about your own blog?
    -Al Smith

  10. Hi Willa! I like you have some similar concerns. I am a student majoring in health education. I too am very weary about how often people sit in front of a computer instead of going outside and doing something active. I too love technology and will use it whenever possible in my future classroom but I am already thinking of ways to teach my students balance between technology and physical activity/healthful living. You’re speech was excellent and pretty much summed up the conflicted feelings that I have about technology. Good job Willa, keep on climbing those trees, making great speeches and building awareness about spending too much time in front of glowing rectangles.

  11. This was such a great post. I believe technology is an amazing and very advancing thing, but it also has its downfalls. People choose to talk over Facebook chat or messages instead of in person. I think this is going to become more and more of a problem in society. Every relationship is going to be online. We have to break this cycle and see that while yes, technology is good, we cannot use it as a substitution for everything we do. Nice post.

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