The Human Touch – Is it Missing?

Lowell Monke’s article, The Human Touch, was written in 2004 and definitely reads outdated. Monke is leery of computers in the classroom because he feels we’d be trading off too much experience/learning for technology. Some of the values, including creativity, get left behind when the computer becomes the means of information-learning. He basically believes the computers inhibit students from making connections they would otherwise make through experiential learning and hands-on learning with the material. I can’t really argue with the value of creativity. Computers definitely take away the child’s need to imagine alternate worlds or imagine something in their mind in order to solve a problem. Nowadays they can play video games that simulate playing house or they have dolls that look exactly like they want them to look because they made them. When I was a kid my play kitchen had a painted window on it – I would set it up in front of my window so when I pretended to look through the window I could just look up and pretend it was the same window. I don’t feel kids are doing that sort of thing these days. And I think most parents would agree. My mom has complained that it is hard for her to find presents for my niece and nephew because she is determined to get them something that “requires creativity.” 

One thing that I really think has changed is Monke’s accusation that “We may deliver our children into the world with tremendous technical power, but it is rarely with a well-developed sense of human purpose to guide its use.” I think many start-ups and entrepreneurs these days almost solely rely on “tremendous technical power” but are started with an explicit “human purpose.” In an age of global warming and depleting resources, many are turning to technology to aid in solving these human problems, which would fall under a “well-developed sense of human purpose.” 

Monke ends his article saying, “So it seems that we are faced with a remarkable irony: that in an age of increasing artificiality, children first need to sink their hands deeply into what is real;…” I was intrigued by his use of the word artificiality. First, he hasn’t used it elsewhere in the article so it was a bit out of the blue. Second, it’s a term we’ve been hearing about in our other readings referring to technology or the proliferation of non-natural things. Apart from word usage I wonder if this is as true as he claims it to be. Are children less hand-on? Are they not digging deep enough anymore due to computers? Or are they just digging in a different way. Having information at your fingertips can be a great tool for curious kids, just like computer-based games are a good way to teach students concepts, math, words, etc. I’m not convinced that introducing computers or technologies to a child has such a negative impact. I know a two-year-old that knows how to navigate an iphone and ipad to get to her game. This same two-year-old is constantly getting dirty outside, getting into things she shouldn’t, and spends the majority of her time NOT on the device. Is she not sinking her hands into what is real?

One thought on “The Human Touch – Is it Missing?

  1. I think you are onto something with the “its different, its not lacking” point of view. I think something similar exists as far as the creativity aspect as well. I remember chatting with my Aunt about growing up in the 30’s… She was telling me my Dad made his own modeling clay as a youngster. In my era we had model rockests. In todays world, kids can simulate a ton on a computer, and in another decade, I see desktop 3d printers being as common as Cricuts.

    I guess in some ways, there is a loss… ie I think of how many times my Dad’s clay failed, or how many times he had to go down to the river to dig up supplies. The persistence issue is a concerning one… but then again, I look at kids playing with digital audio workstations, they have a ton more persistence than I do. Alas, its not the magnitude that is the issue, as much as it is the subject area.

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