Bits of life

Author: Teresa Lamas

 

The first most disturbing question regarding technology that I ever heard came on an average day from my grandma Dominga. We were sitting on the sofa watching her favorite program on TV one warm afternoon in our cold, old village in Galicia, when she caressed my knee and said (I translate from Galician): «Babe, can I ask you a question?» I said, «yes, of course, granny» so she looked at me with her most innocent grandmotherly expression: «What are all those people doing there, and why do they only have that tiny little window? Can’t they get out of there? And why can’t they see us?» It took me a while to understand she was referring to the television, and that those “tiny little people” were in fact Ava Gardner and Clark Gable playing Mogambo.

I have wondered ever since how long she had been thinking about it, being a ninety something year-old woman who had survived a war, even famine, and didn’t know how to read, perplexed at this entire modern mini-world going on right there, in her house.

I can recall many other questions of the sort after that one brave one. I guess she had never had the courage to ask, since everybody seemed comfortable and understanding with the idea of observing those little dwarves living in her kitchen, who couldn’t see us. And she was not going to be the one raising doubts about the normality of all that. Now that I think of it, I remember as well this one time when she asked me how come, if I was living in another city, she could hear me perfectly well (on the phone, of course).

I bought my first computer in my second year at university. I had always said that I would never need to use those devilish things, and had refused to own one until one of my professors, after receiving my typewritten assignment, asked me the second most disturbing question of my life regarding technology: «Miss Lamas, were you born in the dinosaurs’ era?» Little did I know how important computers would become ever since in my daily life.

In my third year in university I bought a mobile phone. None of my classmates (or anybody I knew, for that matter) had one. It was a pretty deep blue «One touch easy» and I immediately felt in love with it. The first call I made from my brand new phone was to my Mum. She was happy she could finally communicate with me easily now. But owing a mobile phone 25 years ago was difficult at times. Receiving a phone call in public when almost nobody had a mobile phone at the time was quite embarrassing, although it was very satisfying at the same time as it gave you a certain feeling of freedom… and what to say about SMS! Amazing!

Owing this phone was the first step to my current absolute devotion to technology.

Now that I have been a teacher in Nebrija for 12 years, and after teaching online since 2011, I look at technology and education from many different perspectives. On the one hand, it would be very difficult right now to “survive” in this current education system without certain knowledge of the latest developments… I know, who would have guessed when watching the little people who were living with my grandma what classes would be like 20 years later? On the other hand, I am always questioning myself: are we missing something? Are we losing contact with reality and with other human beings, as some more traditional educators claim? I guess this is a concern that each of us have to figure out, find a balance between the machine and human condition.

I am just worried about the latest (but probably not last) most disturbing question about technology I’ve heard (this time from an online student): “But, teacher, were there computers already when you were young?”

“I’m a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they’re interested in.”

Bill Gates

 

Teresa Lamas

ILM (Instituto de Lenguas Modernas)

 

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