Without doubt, the notion of global entrepreneurialship and the communications technologies supporting our access to our 21st ‘conversational space-age is engaging us all to a greater and greater extent. Our capacities to communicate have come a long, long way in a very short space of time.

One of the things that hugely impresses me is the fact that so many young people of tender years are well and truly ‘first’ in experimental and experiential terms with using technology to further communications, to engage in the establishment of quite sophisticated networks and to act and interact with each other at levels, ranging from next door and across the street to around the world on a 24/7 basis.

One of the things as a member of the older generation that I don’t understand is how much the younger generation does understand when it comes to technology and the use of devices. My grandchildren at the ages of seven, six and five know a lot more about gadgetry, its use and manipulation than I do! I am often in a context of being taught new things by these teachers well over half a century younger than me.

It doesn’t stop at the family level. In the school context, the children know so much and can show me so much that I was in awe of their basic knowledge. Children of tender years are ‘veteran class’ when it comes to their capacity to use technology. They produce quite sophisticated product with classroom assignments and are more savvy by far than me in the area of cyberspace engagement. I sometimes thought my school was one of several hundred bubbling technocrats with the capacity to do marvelous things in the area of entrepreneurialship and the creation of linkages that bind the world through the knowledge they had and were developing in the technological field.

My role was and that of teachers in all of this, is to take account of the need to temper and to direct the efforts and the energies of children to a point of reasonableness in this domain. There was an article in the Australian in 1996 that talked about the need for teachers and educators to develop and retain perspective in an age of unfolding and burgeoning technology. The article, written by (from memory) Heather Gabriel, suggested that teachers ought not to compete with children in that domain of understanding how to use information and communication technologies. Children who were being born and brought up in this age would always be smarter than their elders when it came to the acquisition of basic technological knowledge. The article suggested that teachers should consider themselves in metaphorical terms to be captains of the ship’s, responsible for guiding their class in ship like during the 40 or so school weeks of each year.

The wise teacher would set the agenda and use children with skills in the capacity of ‘crew members’ to aid and abet the ‘SS Class’ in making it safely to port. So it wasn’t a case of unbridled uncontrolled access to technology but rather the shaping of programs with appropriate technological support in order to achieve desired endpoints and outcomes.

This analogy has stood by me for many years and is one used in thinking about the place in the context of technology. I wouldn’t want to children and young people to be entrepreneurial if that is all about unbridled and ill-considered use of the technology. It’s so easy these days of children to become ‘one track’.

There are children and unfortunately many of them who spend countless hours whiling away time that connects them, through technology, to the wider world in cyberspace context. Is that real life: Or can it be life that’s taken from a real context and placed into what becomes an artificiality of escapism?

In Australia, there are a number of advertisements on television that talk about what constitutes life. Those advertisements invariably caution that too much time spent innocent entry way is anathema. “Life” is upheld as needing activity as well as passivity. The connotation is that sometimes spent engaging around technology and activities of a nonphysical nature is fine but that needs to be balanced with time spent in active engagement. It’s all about balance.

For me, this parallel has expression within the context of this topic. It’s fine for children and young people to have the capacity to engage through cyberspace connections but also necessary that life has local vitality and engagement that focuses on the senses as well as through the fingers onto a keyboard. My reading about technological gurus and those with extreme dedication to online and cyberspace communication suggests there are limitations in the direct communicative and social capacities many of these people exhibit.

Don’t overlook the ‘basics’

I believe there are two worlds: the real world in which we physically live and the technological world that resides in cyberspace. Simply put, around our planet is this endless space into which we launch on which we receive. It is instantaneous, but disengaging of people in direct physical terms. We ‘go global’ from desks, lounges, kitchen tables, the front porch, our cars, internet cafes – and all that in a way that consumes hours of our time without us having to physically move an inch!

We talk without opening our mouths. We identify respondents without engaging in eye contact. We reveal our inner selves thoughts without supporting our comments with a physical presence that confirms the emotion behind our expression. We communicate to others into the environment without having an awareness of that environment based on our presence and therefore not confirmed by our senses. In this context people young and old are removed from the real world, preferring one that is artificial.

Of course, there are issues at times of people feeling not confident when it comes to first hand communication. Information Communication Technology offers both a palliative and a panacea. It’s important that people have the opportunity to communicate and share; adeptness at managing one’s self in the cyberspace world is important. However, there is a question of balance and total substitution of traditional communicative methods with their replacement by the ‘new way forward’ offered by technology creates an imbalance of another kind.

Original thought

Over-reliance on communication technologies and a predisposition to prefer cyberspace can lead to a point of where the viewpoint of others become owned by those who are online and out there. It’s so easy to see what others write, then taking their words and owning them. With communication and discourse it’s ever so important and original thought prevail and be shared.

The thoughts of others can influence thinking but nobody should ever allow what they believe think and feel to be totally substituted. If this happens undue influence prevails, with people becoming hesitant, unsure and not at all positive about going forward on the strength and courage of their own convictions. With this comes the danger of plagiarism subsuming creativity: submergence of one’s beliefs and thoughts to those of others is both sad and dangerous. In terms of entrepreneurialship and engagement, this is something that needs to be thoroughly understood and avoided.

A place for everything

When I was a little boy my Mother used to say to me, ‘Henry, in life there is a place for everything and everything should be in its place’. Back then, modern technologies hadn’t been invented but what she advised fits the times in which we live.

We need to make sure that the perspective and the focus that these technologies bring to our world don’t push to one side those many other important priorities we need to consider in developing and educating children. Technology and its outreach, the ability of children and young people to communicate online has its place – but it isn’t the ‘end all and be all’ of what should be in life’s world. It is a part but not the whole!

It would be easy to laud and envy communications tools and to unduly encourage the concept of linkage that brings to young people the capacity to link in a global instantaneous context with everyone everywhere at any time. However, that would do little to support the balance and the development young people need and should be offered.

I hope that technologies and opportunities that are provided never ever take from the fact that children, young people and even we ‘old ones’ need to be firstly people and secondly persons using tools that support but don’t take over when it comes to setting agendas, communicating and interacting. May it be that technologies supporting linkages and communications opportunities are always the slave but never a master.Personality is a wonderful quality that individualises everyone, young and old alike. It should never be traded and never be lost.

Henry Gray
Retired Principal

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