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...Are the Tools Becoming More Important Than the Thinking?

I was listening to an episode of Marc Maron’s podcast, “WTF” today. As one of my favorite comedians, he’s not a guy I usually go to for inspiration. However, as part of a slightly larger conversation about evolution and technology he shared a recent experience:

I had this moment where I’m driving behind a car…and I see the TV in the large SUV, and I had this weird flash – and I know I’m getting to middle age here, or I’m past it. So I have weird reflective moments – and I remember, I saw that TV, and I’m like, ‘That’s a little f**ked up’. Because I did some of the best early thinking in my life sitting in the back of a f**king car, looking out a window. And I think it was, like, life-defining. Like, y’know when you’re on a long trip with your parents and you’re just, ‘ugh!’, looking at clouds, making things in your head, wondering about things, and now it’s just sorta like whatever is on the screen. It’s gotta be hurtin’ ’em.

I’m not a luddite, and this post isn’t a treatise on the evils of technology. I don’t think I could write that essay if you paid me. I love my iPhone. I love my iPad. I’m addicted to information and the immediacy in which I can receive it. In my profession as an educator, I’ve gotten the reputation as somewhat of an innovator in my district when it comes to integrating technology into learning.

It’s also not an admonition of anyone’s parenting choices. My son has an iPhone, which he loves, and which has replaced me as his preferred bedtime company. My daughter is constantly on my wife’s iPhone or family iPad. My minivan has not one but two TV screens which can play different movies simultaneously, which, I can tell you after a trip to Florida and to Cape Cod, were worth their weight in gold.

Maron’s comments resonated with me, as a child of the 70’s/80’s, making all those trips back and forth between New York and Ohio, and as an only child left to my own devices when all my friends were otherwise detained and there was nothing on the eleven TV channels we received. I thought about all the time I spent just inside my own head and how it ultimately shaped who I became.

These days, even with all of the distractions and stimuli I’m constantly bombarded with, I still take a little time each day to just think and wonder. Those 10 minutes every night after my head hits the pillow and before I drift off to sleep is the time I most consistently get to do that.

Maron’s comments got me wondering something else. When do my children think? Not thinking as a result of someone else’s prompting (school/parents), but just existing in their own head thinking about life, events, how/why things work, or even about the way they think.

I think about my students and how reliant they seem to be on their devices and wonder if they have opportunities for this kind of thought.

I wonder what changes I could be making to foster this kind of thinking.

I wonder.

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