The Serendipity of Technology


pεrƒormatıvε rhızomε sεrεndıpıty . .
Creative Commons

One of the things I love about technology is the serendipitous way it answers the questions we are asking. Talk about just in time learning and the inquiry process. Technology is the answer to a prayer. It makes me hopeful for the type of learners our children will be. With the right teaching, their lives will be inquiry in action.

This is dating myself, but when I was an undergrad student at the University of Lethbridge, if we were looking for sources, we used a very big, very fat, hardcover guide which would allow us to search for journal articles by topic. If we found an article that looked promising, we would go to the catalogue and see if the library carried it, either in print or on microfiche. More often than not, the library did not, so we would go back to the guide and start again. Research was laborious and often not fun or productive.

Sprint ahead to 2012. While researching for an upcoming paper that is due on documentation of the inquiry process, I looked back at a Google site that a colleague and I created last year when we were working on the idea of a learning commons in our school. The fact that I can easily access my notes on that conference is in itself, amazing. We attended a conference called Journey of Possibilities: Reggio Inspired Inspirations in Elementary Contexts and posted our conference notes on the site. One of the speakers at the conference, Mara Krechevsky, was connected with Project Zero at Harvard University. Her ideas really resonated with me, especially when she said, “It is not about learning to document, it is about documenting to learn.” I had forgotten about her work, but last night when I was looking back at our notes, I remembered her insightful comments. I went to the Project Zero site, which led me to the Artful Thinking project. I did a little more digging around at Project Zero and found Making Learning Visible. These two sites fit perfectly with my research topic about how documenting learning can inform and direct arts based inquiry. How serendipitous is that?

In yesterday morning’s class, we discussed the possibility of research moving from an abstract sequential process to an abstract random process. I don’t think that would be such a bad thing. It sure opens up the possibilities.

But before I leave you thinking I am giddy with possibility, a word of caution. As Neil Postman (1992) says in Chapter 1 of his book Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology:

“For it is inescapable that every culture must negotiate with technology, whether it does so intelligently or not. A bargain is struck in which technology giveth and technology taketh away.” (p.5)

For me, one of the things technology takes away in its gift of random serendipity is the ability to focus. Sometimes, what should take an hour, takes three. I see this in my students as well. How can we help them pay attention to the unexpected, while keeping their eye on the target? Do we need to add this to the list of 21st century skills or habits of mind to model and teach?

Postman, N. (1992) Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to         Technology. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.


About sandralbecker

An educator who is passionate about the creation of a school Learning Commons, which supports inquiry, critical thinking, and collaboration.
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One Response to The Serendipity of Technology

  1. amaratti says:

    As someone who gets distracted easily I can honestly say I identify with your concluding comments. I also agree that technology is something that gives and something that leaves out. A person that climbs a ladder is given access to new heights, but loses access to the field. Just as much as serendipity may be a negative feature of technology it may also be positive. Having worked with a music producer before, he used to say “Serendipity is a full working partner”. He said that right after he threw in the wrong drum track which ended up sounding better than the one he originally planned.

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