Students Are Not Robots! Using Technology to Create Meaningful Communication


by Eric Chester ~

When I was a teenager growing up in the 70s, my father wanted me to get a much better education than the 10th grade education he had to settle for during the Great Depression.

To scare me into studying harder, Dad would tear out pages of the futuristic monthly magazine, Popular Science, and lay them on my bed to show me that computers would someday take over the world. And if I couldn’t use a computer, someday I would be replaced by one.

Dear old Dad was smarter than I thought back then. His prediction has become a reality; at least, for me it has.


My 30-year career path has taken me from a Career Technical Education (CTE) educator (marketing teacher/DECA advisor) to a motivational speaker for students, to an author and speaker about students for educators and employers.

My job is simply to research, create and present information. Only now, that information is being delivered in formats that didn’t exist a few short years ago.

teacherTechnology Has Changed Everything
Streaming video and podcasts have made obsolete the audio cassettes, CDs, and DVD training programs that used to line my basement shelves. The demand to convert my books to e-books for the Kindle and Nook is quickly eclipsing the market for those same books in print.

And to save money on costly travel, a growing number of my clients are choosing to meet online rather than in person, opting for a presentation delivered via webinar over one delivered live.

Dad was right. The computer (i.e., technology) has changed everything. This is true in my business, and it’s true in yours, as well.

The delivery systems, formats, platforms, and technology-based options available to teachers are unlimited. And when you consider that all of these technologies are continually being updated, redesigned, and reshaped, and that whatever systems and devices you’re currently using will likely become obsolete next year, well, it’s mind-blowing!

Digital Generation
So now that your mind is blown … STOP!
Rather than focus on the technology we are using to educate students, let’s shift the focus to the students who’ve been impacted by it.

Your schools are filled with digital natives who were booting up computers before they were hopping on bikes. With minds that are playlist-driven, they process information like an iPod skips through songs and other files — seeing no rhyme or reason to keep to any sort of chronological order. Their brains think totally different than those of students of the 50s, 60s, 90s or even those just a decade ago.

This drives more than the way they learn; it has completely reshaped the way they communicate with others.

Communication That Is Meaningful
This creates a problem for educators seeking to do more than program “robotic automatons” with the information necessary to pass a standardized achievement test and move on to the next grade level.
The problem is one of human connection.

While technology has made communicating easy, it has done so at the cost of communication that is meaningful. And for information to be internalized to the point where it is remembered, used and valued, it must be meaningful.

In other words, technology makes it easy to disseminate massive amounts of information to the masses, but teaching a kid how to perform on the job and advance in the workplace still requires personal human interaction.

Strong Work Ethic
For the past decade, I’ve been working closely with business leaders who hire and employ the students you are educating. The loudest rumblings I hear are not from those complaining about a lack of skills; in fact, most employers I talk to believe the emerging workforce has the skills they want.
But what they demand — what has become the “non-negotiable” in the employment equation — is to find people who also possess core work ethic values.

Interview-with-Confidence1Given a choice, today’s employers will jump over 10 job seekers who boast cutting-edge skills but have a questionable work ethic to hire the one applicant who demonstrates solid core work ethic values but may not be quite as skilled as the others.

The way they see it, an employer can always train an ambitious recruit with hard skills, if needed. What those same employers resent, however, is having to tell that young cohort to pull up his pants, put away that smart phone and get to work on time.

Three Tiers to Success
1. Introduce—Core values can’t possibly reach the heart level if they aren’t first introduced at the cerebral level. That’s why it’s crucial to regularly talk about these values and make them an integral part of daily instruction. Students need to be aware of the importance their future employers place on values such as reliability, initiative and integrity. Using the power of stories based on personal experience — yours and theirs — students are introduced to values they may not have learned elsewhere.

2. Recognize and Reinforce—The behavior that gets noticed, gets repeated. Bad habits that are left unchecked become part of a person’s character. But when an individual is recognized, and perhaps even rewarded, for demonstrating professionalism, respect, dependability, etc., they not only want to repeat that behavior, but others take note and want to do the same.

3. Mentor—Today’s students spend hours each day interfacing with technology, but that screen time comes at the cost of not having the meaningful face time they require to develop core values. Great educators know that there is no technological substitute for getting to know a student and helping sculpt vital character values. When you think back on the best teachers you had in life, you can’t help but remember how they helped to mentor you and shape your work ethic.

Today’s students are street-wise, book-smart and techno-savvy. Unfortunately, those possessing solid core work ethic values are in short supply. That puts them in high demand, and there’s never been a better time to unplug the computer and get eyeball to eyeball with young people. The good news for educators who chose meaningful over easy is that they’ll never be replaced by a computer.

Eric is the Founder of the Center for Work Ethic Development and is considered the leading authority on developing work ethic in teens and young adults.  He will be the keynote speaker at the CTE Works! Shaping the Future summit on November 13, 2014.

Photo Credit: Waag Society under Creative Commons.

One thought on “Students Are Not Robots! Using Technology to Create Meaningful Communication

  1. l pawlik January 21, 2015 / 12:57 pm

    “While technology has made communicating easy, it has done so at the cost of communication that is meaningful. And for information to be internalized to the point where it is remembered, used and valued, it must be meaningful.” I find so much truth in this. The most influential teachers are not the ones who supply you with the most abundant and efficient pieces of factual information, but those who connect with you as a young individual and inspire you to find your passion and work relentlessly to make it a reality. Technology limits education to be exclusively academic rather than academic, personal, meaningful, and inspiring.

    Liked by 1 person

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