Thursday, February 14, 2008

To F2F, or not to F2F,..or how much (or less)... that is the question...

As an educational technologist, my livelihood depends on spreading the gospel of the advantages of leveraging technology for better teaching and learning. "Technology as a means to an end...and not an end in itself" is of course, the mantra that I impress on teachers and schools, but I have spent a large part of the last couple of years touting the advantages of web 2.0 tools for communication, collaboration, and community experiences.

Every now and then, however, one is faced with a viewpoint that counters or questions the usefulness of the pervasive trends of 24X7 online interactions, and raises concerns of where things may be headed if they continue in the current vein, and cites the dangers of interaction that is only restricted to typing on a keyboard as opposed to talking - face to face (F2F) or over the phone.

One such viewpoint was offered by Greg Philo in the Guardian article titled "Let's take the digit out of digital" who writes "Facebook is not the same as face to face and, as our virtual skills increase, I wonder if our ability to communicate using speech is on the decline". The article unfortunately digresses into a condemnation of excessive use of Powerpoint and OHPs in conferences and inside classrooms, to support his assertion that "The ability to communicate face to face and hold the attention of others is a vital human skill. Beware of a technology in which the speed of our fingers is more important than the quality of our voices."

I found this observation particularly fascinating -

The great tragedy, of course, is that the phone was invented before the computer. If it had been the other way around, internet forums would now be buzzing with the exciting news: "Have you heard (type, type, type)? There is this amazing new gadget (type, type). Now you can talk directly with people (type, type, type). And they can, like, hear your voice. Without all this flipping typing."

Relentless marketing would do the rest and colleges would be rushing to develop new courses in telephone skills."


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