“Nature is all that a man brings with himself into the World. Nurture is every influence from without that affects him after his birth.”
English Men of Science: Their Nature and Nurture
Nature is everything and everyone. It is the fundamental reality from which all other man-made creations come from.
Even that which can be said, to be ‘not of Nature’, has still come from it.
Cars, cities, roads, computers have arisen from the natural World, but through our altering of the Earth's substances’ we create artificial things, not found in natures natural course. By some definitions what man creates is considered to be, “not of nature”.
Words, philosophies, intellectual ideas and imaginations are all arising from humanities experiences, being expressed through natural bodies, but are also considered to be ‘not of Nature’, as we have created mental realities, like language and symbols, to help us navigate our social, technological, cultural and life challenges and further our development.
Art too’ is an ‘un-natural’, constructed thing, even though once coming from the Earth itself, without human synthesis, cannot come into reality.
When defining what something is, like what Nature is, it is useful to also define what it is not.
Nature is not something that is unanimously defined, amongst various cultures.
Yet, there are themes and commonalities that can give us a common-sense definition of Nature.
Nature has roughly five main associations in the Modern Western World that are commonly used and currently relevant.
1. The Natural World. That all the World, besides what is made by humans, is called Nature. We are Nature, but what we create, is not Nature – except for our children.
2. Our True Nature - is a concept that comes from different global aspects of philosophy and spirituality – it is a concept which says; that all beings have a fundamental Nature and essence, that is beyond our limitations, experiences, trauma, karma or life’s events. That essentially, we are child-like in Nature and pure. The etymology of Nature in Latin means ’to birth’. In the cultures, practicing this concept, there is the notion of returning to our original Nature and birthing ourselves a new, natural and free of ‘nurtured’ constraints, that do not serve the being’s purpose.
3. To ‘get out in Nature’ is a culturally familiar statement. We all love to get outdoors, experience the beauty of Nature, explore, play, go to the beach, hike, picnic or go for walks.
4. Nature is seen as, ‘the World out there’. The great outdoors. Natural vs Un-natural. It is common for us to see marketing and advertising that may remind us, of the distinctions that lie within chemistry, biology, agriculture and food science. Something that has been altered beyond what we find in Nature, or has had a synthetic component added, will be called un-natural. There can be natural food processing methods, for instance drying, hulling, soaking, and even some cooking methods. As where irradiating, spraying, GMO, and superheating is considered un-natural. This is somewhat of a spectrum. The more an item is altered or added to from its original form, by human interaction – it is considered more un-natural. The less it is altered, the more natural it is considered.
5. The Nature of a thing. As in, the Nature of a dog, or ‘Johnny is a good-Natured boy’ or ‘it just wasn't in his Nature to do x, y, z’. People seem to know, that everything and everyone, has an essence, a core, a fundamental Nature, that informs or at least influences its actions in the World, and other’s perceptions of it, and interactions with it.
All of these definitions and cultural distinctions are important factors in assessing what Nature might be. From the above definitions and uses of the word, we can surely see that Nature is about as immense as a topic can get, and includes or influences, all aspects of our lives, for we are truly made of it. Yet these days, Nature doesn't get prioritised and we push on without a connection to it, because it is less obvious and not as ‘in our face’.
We have heating, cooling, shelter, food, social lives and entertainment a button press away. The need to interact with the raw elements of the Earth has become further away and seemingly less important to our busy modern lives. But one cannot really live separate to Nature. We are all here on planet Earth, breathing air, standing on the ground, eating food, drinking liquids, and using some form of heat, clothing or sunshine to stay warm. We are Nature and our Nature adapts to whatever changes that we find ourselves in, or set before ourselves. From the mind, we create and build the World around us, yet the extent that human-beings are aligned to the fundamental forces of Nature, will determine whether what is built and created, will connect us or separate us from Nature and our own Nature. For instance, numerous studies show how simply having more natural light and airflow in a space creates healthier and happier people. Enough natural light can also improve or eradicate depression, studies show. It's not rocket science, but it shows the point, we are Nature and Nature is us.
When we connect to the elements, like the light outside, or open a window, we are rewarded with that same connection in ourselves being kindled awake. We are more alive, happier, and healthier.
Using Science to quantify and qualify Nature
The word Science, comes from the Latin ‘scio’ which is - to know.
To know something deeply is the key to any mastery of any topic or thing. To know something deeply, it must be studied from all angles and dimensions. Obviously, this is a task that cannot be completed quickly, but one that must be planned for, sequenced and done over time.
The scientific method, is the art of getting to know something, inside and out – which is an ongoing, and ever-to-be perfected pursuit. Science is simply, the practice of coming to know.
Nature, is our greatest study, for it is the only thing to study. As we refine and distribute the tools of science for our education system and cultures, our love for Nature and ability to care for Nature, will grow.
Ideally, our education throughout the schooling years will establish in us, a scientific way of understanding and thinking about Nature and about our lives. Science is taught, in some respects, all throughout our time at school – from Pre-School to Year 12, so there are many opportunities to educate scientific methods and scientific thinking. There are many, many, aspects to science, but all of them include the observation of things, to record, detail and ultimately discover how the aspects of this Universe and Natural World operate. The scientific method is not a static or a truly definable process, but it involves the forging of reason, the use of analysis, objective observation and controlled experimentation. Through equipping students, with the fundamental tools of learning themselves, it will help people make constructive and positive decisions on how we create - building things that are in alignment with and support the Natural World.
Unfortunately, science has not always been used for the upliftment of the World, the Earth and its inhabitants, and scientific tools have been used by some to exploit the resources, inherent on the Earth, for personal gain or power - but it is not the fault of science or the lens of observation that these wrong doings occur. This is simply science misused. True scientific tools and thinking, is best used for good in this World and to make valuable observations about the Nature of life. We can use scientific observation and learning, to protect, care for and learn about the Natural World, in order to know it deeply and come into balance with our connection to the Earth. This is why education is so important, through giving a solid education in science, we distribute the power and equip the wider population with the tools to change this planet, for the better.
It is a common theme to hear people express that human beings are like a bacterial colony on the Earth, or like a viral infection. If seen from space, humanities urbanisation looks like some strange canker sore, growing on the planet. Our bacterial likeness, may be mentioned with some jaded tones, as if to say, ‘we are ruining the planet’. Whilst in some ways that is completely valid, many humans disrespect and damage the Earth – not all bacteria, or all viral interactions are negative on the host. Some bacteria are called mutualistic, or symbiotic bacteria. Some viral interactions stimulate the immune response in certain organisms, creating positive adaptations and evolution. We are a host for countless organisms and some of them are naturally beneficial and some of them are naturally pathogenic. Most however, can change from symbiotes to pathogens, depending upon the prevailing conditions in the environment they live in.
I believe humans, if we are like bacteria, are much the same - 5% of bacteria, like people, are naturally pathogenic and will use science, or whatever they have available to them to get what they want, without care or thought of how it affects others. Medically this may be called psychopathy or sociopathy or at a reduced scale, extreme narcissism. 90% of bacteria and humans, will change their Nature to sympathetically bend towards the prevailing conditions in the environment. The remaining 5% of bacteria, like people, are natural symbiotes and think carefully about their impact on the environment, the Earth, their community, family, inner and outer Nature and how they will interact with it.
Unfortunately, modern humans have all now experienced, what it’s like for the 5% of pathogenic bacteria-humans to run the planet. Corporate greed, exploitation and control are their top priorities and the 90% of humans, who are not terribly proactive, mostly support the structures laid out by the leading pathogens – consumerism, chemical farming, limited energy, harmful technologies, etc.
We look forward to an age, where the symbiotic 5% of humans begin to take charge of Planet Earth and create structures that are more wholesome for the rest to adopt and follow.
Sustainability, Earth Care, cooperation, and abundance are high priorities for the symbiotic beings.
Generalised statements about the World’s populations (like the ones above), only help to illustrate a dynamic, that is at play in the world. The few people who own much of the resources, often direct and control much of the science, often to the detriment of others.
It is my belief, that science and the faculties of scientific knowledge are best distributed and taught to all cultures. Applied sciences are at the centre of western progress, and it governs the way in which nearly everything is done in this World. Who better than the youth to carry the flame of these powerful tools, to use science for positive action?
The Tools of Science: Quantity and Quality
The tools of science allow us to quantify and qualify aspects of Nature. Quantifying allows us to see what something consists of, its moving parts. This aspect of science, has done much to define aspects of the World. Details of anatomy, biology, chemistry and more, are the results of quantifying our Universe. This then allows us to see the World with enhanced awareness, so we can better our creations in the world.
Quantification is a truly limitless process. The further we peer into the microscope, the more vastness of life and elements we find. The further we zoom out with a telescope into space, the more we see an endless cosmos, full of stars and potential life. One data point, like ‘11 points are found on a maple leaf’, may seem irrelevant or trivial in isolation. Yet, when we view data, in sets, across time, we can see patterns like; 11 points on maple leafs are consistent amongst the maple family, therefore can be a good identifier for the species.
Qualification is also another aspect of scientific thinking, which says that simply because the leaf, is a maple leaf, does not mean that it is like all maple leaves. It asks in a way, what is the quality of the leaf. It may look like a leaf, but upon further examination, it may be observed that there is a leaf disease effecting the qualities of its form. Maybe outgassing chemicals from the highway have also ended up impacting the leaf's metabolism. Just because something is said to be ‘a leaf’ says nothing about the quality of the leaf’s existence. This aspect of science, looks more at the environmental impact on a thing and how it effects the qualities of the thing being observed.
It is common for industrial and commercially driven science, to be focused solely on quantification and not on quality. Qualification slows the processes down, because it asks more questions of how our environment and actions qualitatively impact everything else.
It can be seen how the current schooling system adopts a quantity heavy approach, at the cost of quality. We expect all children and students to learn the quantified material and sit the quantified test – but at which point did we qualify; whether the test is relevant to the development of the skills needed, whether the test is relevant to the particular student’s development, did the student get enough support in order to be able to sit the test, has the student had enough sleep, nutrition and emotional support in order to be getting tested at the same time as all other students?
Qualification is the mothering aspect of science, the feminine caring principle of science, that unfortunately has been suppressed, like other aspects of feminine consciousness through time. These times are ending and people and cultures are more aware of the harm that is done through labelling, controlling, segmenting and inventing, without considering the holistic ramifications of our actions on the World around us, and the Nature we are using.
What I see currently to be one of the biggest issues in science today, is the imbalance between the use of quantification and qualification, in the conduct of the sciences we are developing.
More is not always better. Faster is not always safer. Cheaper is often, more toxic. More powerful, is sometimes disastrous, like nuclear energy can be.
Best practice, is a healthy balance between quality and quantity. We may be able to use nuclear effectively, for something one day, in a safe and reliable manner, but as they say, ‘safety first’ and it is probably better that we think about the quality and therefore the context of nuclear power, before we created things like nuclear weapons.
But, the good news is that by sharing this message of a balanced approach to science, through the education of as many people as possible, we have a better chance of learning to become responsible stewards of the Earth and its materials.
Gifting the children of the Earth the powerful tools of science, in this balanced loving way, will usher in a positive new world that uses science righteously and beautifully.
Our Biggest Influences on our views of Nature
‘It is in man's heart that the life of Nature's spectacle exists; to see it, one must feel it.’
1712 - 1778
Emile - 1762
The biggest influences on the way, various cultures experience Nature, is multifaceted and complex.
Nature’s role to the civilised person living in a city, is very different to the role of Nature in the Kalahari Bushmen's lives, who are reliant upon Natures nuances and details for survival.
It is the context of our lives and content of our lives, that denotes the value and meaning that we place upon Nature. Nature is actually, no less valuable to the modern living in the city, but its apparent necessity is less obvious.
For instance, pollination from bees provides the food for most of what we eat, so bees are very important – when U.S industry, for instance, realises that estimated losses of $29 billion dollars are a potential, if we do not protect pollinators, the industry may start to take bees more seriously.
Drastic problems, cause widespread awareness on issues, but industry is still continuing on and many industries still promotes practices that exploit bee populations, without firm solutions to restore or protect them.
Our philosophies that we hold about Nature, whether informed by science, religion, spirituality or contemporary thought, are what influence our connection to it and place our value upon it.
Imagine the Kalahari Bushmen doing something to wipe out their bee populations. It would not happen! They are so critically aware of the factors in their eco-sphere, even slightly reduced numbers of bees would seem obvious to them and a sign that something was not going correctly in their eco-sphere. It seems the civilised World is so distant from its impact on the environment, it takes mass die-off events to reveal the reality of our technologies impact on the natural World. By then, we are often at a loss of how to stop doing what we are doing, or how to reasonably heal the issue.
In the West, disputably our biggest influencer on the way Nature is viewed and handled, comes from the cultural focus on economic gains. What is profitable, is therefore good and needs to be conducted. Even if it means the loss of habitat, bio-diversity, or clean water. The short-term benefits of ruining a landscape are attractive opportunities for the economist who sees Nature simply as a commodity with only extrinsic value.
Some scientists are researching and developing Materially Engineered Artificial Pollinators, saying that
“The need to develop an innovative pollination tool that does not require time and effort to achieve pollination with a high success rate is urgent.”
Yet, in the quest for endless innovation, we can forget to save that which was working, just fine before we meddled – bees in this case. Even though studies of civilised western people across America show that over 82% of people recognise the intrinsic value of Nature – industry holds so much power over what jobs are available, how resources are managed and what practices we use, that even a positive understanding reflected in the public opinion, is not enough to change the way in which things are being done on the whole (remember the 5% of pathogenic microbes, controlling the environment for the 90% sympathetic microbes). This general lack of value given to the environment beyond its commercial application has given ecological economists like Pavan Sukhdev, the reasons to provide industry with tangible figures for the monetary value of the natural elements and eco systems of planet as in, literally placing a monetary value on things like bee populations, rivers and forests.
Other environmentalists are concerned that by placing monetary value upon the environment, industry is just as likely to hijack these understandings for further privatisation and control of the natural World. Yet others see this as a necessary step in aligning the interests of industry, to begin to perceive a longer term economic model. One that takes into account the inherent value of the natural World and thereby, will protect is longevity for economic interest.
There are those who place inherent, infinite and priceless value on Nature, seeing places on Earth as simply spiritual, beautiful, or worthy of preservation. Some of the World’s largest National Parks were secured safely in an act of patrimony, like Yosemite and Yellowstone National Park, where conservationist Presidents in the U.S. have secured most of the countries National Parks, away from commercial interests.
It is my belief that regardless of how we perceive our connection to Nature, that it is, inherently valuable.
To summarise the real cost or value of an ancient tree is fundamentally impossible, but it theoretically, provides the economy, a ballpark of what it is dealing with, which will hopefully allow economists to make better decisions for how we manage our Earth relationship.
In China, people have been hand pollinating crops like pears and apples, as pollinators have declined through environmental damages. Pollination was estimated to be worth a total of $153 billion, suggests a 2005 study.
In the western World, various individuals have largely shaped common distinctions about the World, through science, which have shifted the way we think, from a largely superstitious and religious lens, to one that is more inclusive of other ideas and theories for Creation and the movements of the Universe.
Charles Darwin's theories on evolution, define that biology and all lifeforms are evolving into new forms, all the time. Everything in biology, is influenced to change through shifting environmental conditions and the forms of Nature, will diverge and evolve into different forms throughout time and reproduction. Simple and thorough, long and observant analysis of plant and animal forms around the World, has revealed the truth, in Darwin’s findings.
It is this kind of science that has pulled back the potentially superstitious veil of religious dogma that has been embedded in humankind’s history and changes the fundamental ways in which we think and do things.
Galileo is another prime example of a scientist who was incarcerated for challenging the beliefs and views that culture held at the time, yet radically altered the way we view the Universe, because of his efforts to influence our views on Nature and the Cosmos.
Our views as a culture of what Nature is, are constantly expanding and evolving. To some, all land is precious and needs protecting. To others, the land contains valuable resources for industries and must be exploited in order to provide for and grow our industries.
Nature, in the case of industry, is seen as a resource, and something to be exploited. ‘Leave nothing but your footprints’, a common environmental message, shares a message of environmental protection, but speaks little of our participation or impact, beyond an enjoyable stroll visiting a National Park.
The Indigenous Australian's carefully managed the land through controlled burning, controlled harvesting of animal and plant populations and millennia’s worth of observation on the land. Their view of Nature as a culture, was one of responsibility, participation and interconnectedness. Many early anthropologists and explorers visiting Australia and America's mentioned the well-maintained park lands of abundance that the indigenous had obviously cultivated. Gone are the theories, that the primitive hunter gatherer, that simply wandered around, struggling to survive, until technologically advanced and civilised western man appeared. The cultures that inhabited a natural way of life, were caretakers and participants, in a harmonious relationship with the land.
If it were not for the vast knowledge of the inhabiting peoples of Original Australians, many of the early settlers would have perished, for lack of connection to and knowledge of the land. It is easy to survive in civilised Australia nowadays, but we have pushed back Nature, to something that we need not deal with directly. We can exist entire days, or even years, without collecting our own firewood, hunting our own food, needing to make our own clothes, or harvest any timber or plant materials for our shelter. Inherently our view on what Nature is to us, is shaped by the way we live.
Nature is now ‘out there’ and we are ‘in here’, where our houses, cities and towns keep us relatively adrift from the bare and unrelenting raw elements of Nature. The forces are still present, but they are further away, less poignant, less apparent, less dominating of our most obvious experience.
Nowadays, we can have the time to study abstract topics, play musical instruments, watch television shows and eat every meal consistently under the comfort of a sealed abode, with an air-conditioned atmosphere. The pressing urgency of attaining calories, warmth and shelter, was more real for a primitive human who was more absorbed in the elemental flow of life, their view on Nature was that it was all encompassing, all powerful, and all around. Every little thing was seen to be a sign, because every little sign had the potential to be a signal for greater meaning, which meant greater awareness, which often meant more food and continued survival and thriving.
In the modern civilised World, it matters less where birds are travelling, or insects are moving to, where in the past this may have indicated a water source to a person immersed in Nature. Nowadays, these interconnected meanings, are less present with the modern human. Our relationship, to how we live on the land, and our connection to it, shapes how we relate to Nature and its meaning and value.
When American children were asked a question, of ‘where their food came from?’, in an early 2000's TV Show by Jamie Oliver and ‘what food stuffs related to which things from Nature’, the children revealed our relative disconnection to Nature, through their answers. ‘Food comes from the supermarket’, ‘food comes from a packet’ and many of the children did not know what animal ‘ham’ came from, or even milk.
It goes to show, that when all the processes between Nature and the end user have been removed, it is easy to disassociate the real meaning of a thing from its context. The new context becomes our modern lives, in which truly, most food does come from the supermarket and from a packet. How is a child raised in this type of culture and society, to know any better? Unless they are taught. Unless there are elders around to connect the dots.
We inherently know, as a culture that it is good to spend time outside and healthy for us. We view Nature as a place for recreation, enjoyment, and play. Heading out to the favourite beach, campground, or woodland hike, is nearly any Australians favourite holiday pastime. ‘Play outside’, is likely still shouted by every parent, at least at some point in their parenting career. To give the children a sense of Nature, to keep them away from the screens, or to provide the parents a moment of peace and to save a house from getting beyond messy. Sending our youth and ourselves into Nature, is something that most people relish and think is a good idea.
It seems to not be the public, the parents, the teachers and the everyday people of this World that want to commodify Nature and have dominion and control over it, exploiting it as if it is ours to own.
It is simply industry driven motives that cause the public to disconnect from the real value of Nature, as the World is run by money and business, it is harder for the average person, to reflect environmentally aware and conscious action, in a World that rarely supports these motives and supports convenient consumerism and disconnection.
Forward thinking countries, like Sweden, Costa Rica, Denmark, Germany, Scotland, Norway and others have major government support in place for planting trees, installing solar, or improving the ‘greenness’ of one’s business.
We can hopefully assume, that eventually countries like Australia and the U.S. will follow suit with the same vigour and determination as these other leading countries.
It is becoming more obvious how people in these countries experience greater quality of life, due to an enhanced and supported connection to Nature, all supported by the countries governing bodies, policies on nature and the environment.
Regardless of the social, political and economic context that our World finds itself in, we know Nature is important and always has been.
Regardless of people’s view on Nature, whether it is economically motivated, spiritually motivated, or motivated by necessity to connect for survival means (like the 1.2 billion people that are still dependent upon habitat to thrive), we all know the Earth’s natural resources are vital to life. The more inclusive our view is of the interconnectedness of Nature and value of Nature, the better that we can make decisions about how we interact with these precious resources.
What is un-natural?
Traditional definitions place un-natural as:
Something that is artificial.
Not being in accordance with Nature or the natural course of events.
Not being in accordance with normal human feelings or behaviour.
In a World of computers, iPhones, Artificial Intelligence (AI) robots like Siri, Google Home, and plastic everything – we all have a fairly good grasp on what is artificial, man-made, and un-natural.
Humans are natural beings – our biology, hearts and brains are the product of Nature taking place.
The Stoics, who have had a great influence on traditional Western thought – believed that when human beings used their rational mind to act ‘in accordance with Nature’ that a virtuous life was to be found, and happiness, and satisfaction in self, will follow.
To be led merely by our impulses, and not use our capacity to reason, is a misuse of our humanity, and debases us to the level of an animal, without reason or choice to act in a higher way.
This notion, places the higher reasoning, imaginative, and rational aspects of the human being, as a fundamental, and essential part of our Nature. I believe this is a positive and reasonable view of the human beings Nature itself. We are social, rational
beings, and without acceptance of our social and rational Nature, and working to improve both faculties, we discard what it is to be fully human. The Stoics believe, through the application of our morals, and the reasoning of our mind, we can come into accordance with Nature, our own Nature, and the Nature of the World – and that what we create from that space, will also be, in accordance with Nature.
To be in accordance with Nature, is by definition, the Stoics believe, to come into alignment with the virtues of our human Nature, namely – prudence, courage, justice and temperance – which seem to have been cast aside in the creation of things like polystyrene, plastics, atom bombs, and agent orange. These un-natural creations, undermine the entire natural and human World, and are an act of sidestepping virtue, and using the intellect to support the impulsive aspects of human Nature, above the rational and virtuous. Greed, power, control and money are behind these creations, and epitomise how far we can step away from Nature, into the un-natural. Human Nature, true human Nature, was always positively ascribed, to be something originally virtuous and good by The Stoics.
That beneath our impulsive and survivalist aspects is a rational being, that thrives in community and council, and will render the aspects of their life fit to provide for family, culture and tribe, using their rational minds, in action, to fulfil these duties. It is my belief also, as it is of many of the great Stoics, that given the right opportunities, of safety, education, and freedom any child can become an adult who acts independently and with reason and will, towards preserving, caring for and nurturing the community and World that they are a part of.
Un-natural is simply any step that we take away from recognising the whole as a part of ourselves, and connected to us intrinsically. Any step that we take, where we see ourselves as a tiny, separated thing trying to survive amongst a soup of other tiny, separated things – reinforces an un-natural, unreal perspective. That ‘separated’ World is an illusion, and an illusion that is precariously supported by our modern lives. We can appear to have independence, and to be fairly separated from the World and other people. But it is an illusion, and an un-natural way to live. Other people are cooking our food, other people are building our houses, other people are making our clothes - so are we still really independent people? Our dependence upon culture, each other, and the natural World – is natural. Our thin veil of illusion that tells us that we are independent from all of this - is un-natural. When we fully claim our human Nature, we realise that we are a part of the Earth, and a part of the eco-system, we are a part of each other’s lives, and a part of community, locally and globally. This is the responsible, and real mindset that we wish our children to grow up with, connection to what is natural, connection to our positive human Nature and to be aware of the mind-sets and ways of acting that may undermine Our True Nature.
Why we are Nature
Humans come from Nature, even though some of the ways in which we act are – un-natural. We are not above Nature, superior to it, or rulers of Nature – we are a part of Nature, as subject to the natural laws of the Universe as any other creature – yet we have the power of choice, and the power of reason. These powers of choice and reason, set us up, to be different than animals, and plants, but still substantially made of the same substances. We are given these extra abilities, that allow us to conceive beyond the current impulse that we have, set aside our current conditions, in order to create new conditions, through the way we act.
We are Nature, and Nature is us. No matter how far we act away from Nature, Nature will always come knocking in our lives, to remind us that we are a part of her eternal embrace. One can only stare into the screen of an iPad, computer or television for so long, before our organic eyes become tired, we hunger for foods, and our bodies ache, reminding us to move, reminding us that we indeed have an animal Nature still. We are not beings of pure intellect, and imagination, nor are we beings of simple animal embodiment and impulse – but we are both at once – and that is our Nature.
The Stoic philosophers include human Nature in the whole of Nature – as where classical dictionary definitions of Nature will exclude our behaviours as being un-natural. To equalise this confusion between definitions we can say that the closer that we act to being in accordance with Nature, and make choices that recognise the whole aspects of our Nature, and the Nature around us – our actions are natural. To the extent that we ignore, are unaware of, or act against Nature, or away from our own virtuous human Nature - it can be said that our actions are un-natural.
Humans love concrete definitions, but it is simply impossible to categorise all actions as natural or un-natural, and it is better to think of such events as on a spectrum. For example, more or less natural, and more or less in accordance with Nature. To be in whole accordance with Nature is Godlike. To be fully away from Nature, is beyond abstract, and imaginal. Humanity reigns somewhere in-between the extremes. We aspire towards connection, towards the natural, to discovering and acting with our true Nature – yet we also struggle with and work with, the chaos of the World, the un-natural, and the unreasonable and irrational – as that too, is a part of life.
What Impact is Technology having on us and our Nature?
It is appallingly obvious our technology has exceeded our humanity.
What is Technology?
Technology is anything that we use outside of ourselves to interact with the environment in which we live - natural or un-natural. From the most mundane of items like a stick, a basket, a cup or a rope – to the most advanced of creations like a space shuttle, a skyscraper, or a quantum computer. Technology is a result of our productive rational human minds. We perceive needs, and our minds can forge ideas into creations, that will satisfy the need.
Nowadays, technology is connected to nearly all aspects of life. Our phones have become like new human appendages, which contain connections to our friends, families, photos, music, bank accounts, information, emails and more.
Human beings, naturally want to take care of, and be in awareness of, the above elements – friends, family, assets etc. As without care for these things, we are no longer virtuous and responsible beings in the World, taking care of community and our business – it goes against our Nature, to not care about something that we can care about, which is part of why we find phones so fascinating and absorbing. Technology is here to support us humans in living natural lives, in its highest order – yet the same technology that the World is saturated with, has its tendencies to interact with the impulsive aspects of human Nature, and not bolster the rational and moral aspects of human behaviour. This tendency of technology currently, can circumvent reason, or indeed naturalness.
So, what are we to do with technology in this modern World?
How can we use it to our advantage, in a way that helps us connect more to our true Nature, and the Nature of our World and Universe?
Technologies can be developed that are harmonising with Nature. For instance, currently fishing trawlers are said to be killing an estimated 600,000 birds per year, World-Wide inadvertently, in the process of catching fish. The birds dive down in the presence of large fish numbers, but unwittingly get caught on the hooks in the lines and perish. Various technologies have been developed, and innovations created, that mitigate the loss to the World’s bird population. Setting the lines lower with pressure release hooks, streamers and lasers to scare away birds, are some of the technological innovations that are now being worked into the fishing industry to save birds.
This is a fine example of when technology is being used to harmonise and support Nature. As a culture, we need fish, but killing so many birds, is simply an intersecting event for the fishing industry, that has no viable use for the birds, industry, or benefit to Nature. A rational person will eventually come to the conclusion that something needs to be done about protecting the birds. Because a rational person knows, that birds are an interconnected part of Nature also – and a vital part of the ecosystems and food web.
For instance, the island of Nauru was an ancient bird flight path, stop-over point, in the pacific. Generations of bird guano had accumulated huge phosphorous reserves over time, and a bio-diverse tropical jungle grew on the island. After WW2 Nauru was strip mined extensively for its phosphorous, and all that remains is a detention centre, and a small strip of green. Nauru is sad story, and must be a good reminder of our ability to destroy entire cultures, and ecosystems through the greed of industry. Phosphorous is used extensively in modern chemical farming and to make explosives.
The way in which we use something, or have something developed for us to use as a technology can have a big impact on Nature. The impact does not have to be a negative impact, although currently in the modern World, our technological innovations have often come at the cost of life, bio-diversity, habitat, and the loss of the natural World. Climate impact, created by human behaviour is not a recent concern, and it is publicly obvious in scenarios such as the BP oil spill that our cultural need for oil can drastically impact the natural World in the negative.
Technological innovations, must be tempered by aligning industries interests with Natures interests.
Many failures of procedure and quality, led to the disastrous 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Maybe if the interests of the company, were to serve the natural World, and to harmonise their actions with the natural World, other viable safety measures would have been utilised. Yet many companies are still choosing un-natural methods of production, that exploit, rather than care for, the natural World.
As we, and our children navigate this modern World, we can choose to use technology, and support technologies that support our true Nature, and the Nature of this World – securing ourselves a more rational future, for example, one where oil tankers have safety caps fitted.
Many countries World-Wide, are adopting rules and regulations around the use of WiFi, a very new technology on this planet, especially in places where children are frequently found – schools, libraries, and hospitals. As the use of WiFi is historically untested, it is wise for countries to be adopting strategies that mitigate or remove potential harm.
In Israel, WiFi is banned in all classrooms from Pre-Schools through to Grade 2. Years 3 and 4 are only allocated 3 hours of computer work per week. These measures show the application of the ‘precautionary principle’ of scientific endeavour, which dictates the honest and fair application of safety upon a practice or technology, until all risk factors are known.
Whilst the full impact of wireless technologies is unable to be summarised, we do know that subtle radio frequencies can interfere with natural processes, like the homing abilities of bees or birds. Stem cells appear to be highly sensitive to RF's, although the full effects are unknown, we do know children contain more sensitive stem cells, so hence some countries are wisely adopting strategies that reduce the exposure of RF's for our younger generations. Using our rational and reasonable minds, connected to the awareness that we are interconnected to land and community of humans and animals, will force us to make better decisions about how we use technology, and what we can do to mitigate and/or alleviate the harm that existing technologies may have on the natural order of things.
The internet, the volume of data that we can all access, and the rate at which we can learn new information is astonishing, and something our ancestors may have relished. Yet the dangers of emerging technologies are still widely un-recognised and under-reported. Therefore, adopting strategies, to still gain the benefit of the internet, without the potential threat of wireless signal exposure, seems to be the best of both Worlds, safety and internet access.
Professor Peter Kahn from University of Washington has spent much of his career looking at the intersection between technological innovations, and the degradation of environments. From his research, it is evident to see that even the simulation of Nature through technology, has more benefits, than having no simulated or real Nature at all.
For instance, an office fitted with plasma screen windows that show images of Nature, improved the mood and work capacities of those working in the office, comparable to workers who had no windows. Yet, Peter still concludes that this form of technologically created Nature, needs to be supplementary, to real natural experiences. Whilst a park is better than, a potted plant, a potted plant is still better than a digitally rendered image of a plant, yet the digitally rendered image, is still better than no plant at all. For human psychology and wellbeing.
We humans are what has been coined ‘ecophiles’. By Nature, we love being, and thrive being in, exposed to and amongst Nature.
Peter Kahn's research presents the theory of what he calls ‘generational environmental amnesia’, in which succeeding generations of people, know less about what Nature is or was, and will accept continued levels of development, urbanisation and technology that destroys the natural areas in urban cities, because they know no differently.
Simply because children growing up in a city, are less aware of how much more Nature there was 10 or 20 years ago, it is more easily accepted that urbanisation ‘is the new standard of living’.
Children in Houston Texas were interviewed regarding pollution and air quality. Kahn found that children in Houston, whilst aware of pollution as a factor for health in other major cities, were unaware that Houston Texas, is one of the most polluted cities in America. The pollution had become the standard, and the children did not know any better, or have any comparisons to draw on.
As technology becomes more and more pervasive and accepted, the standards or views upon what is normal or natural will change, and new standards will be set. But from what the research shows, there is no really substantial substitute for the true wild's effect on the human being. The true wild cannot be controlled, it is limitless, beautiful and ferocious, and reminds the human being of their place in the World. Not as a ruler, and dominator of Nature, but as a participant, and a small part of Nature, working with the whole of Nature.
Technologies Impact on the way we Learn
Technologies have an enormous impact on the way that we learn and process information, with computers rapidly reducing the amount of time it takes to learn, research and create.
Having the ability to generate an answer from the internet, in mere seconds, has radically altered the way we go about our learning process. What may have taken direct observation or experimentation, a visit to the library, a conversation with the right person, or to travel to a place of learning like a school or university, can now all take place, at home, in the classroom, or on the move - wherever. The flexibility of our learning environment, and ability to learn from vast data sets quickly, with technically diverse tools that are highly portable, is incredible. As always, innovations in technology are a double-edged sword for learning.
On one hand, the greater speed and precision, and quantity of information means we can rapidly assess multiple sources, and come up with a relatively informed decision, without the need for others, or the traditional avenues of learning, i.e. schools, books, teachers, and experience. Through this availability and speed at which the information can be accessed, the learner can be much more fluent in directing their own learning experience, learn without the pressures of a peer and teacher based environment, and have a greater access to a wide array of opinions and theories.
On the other hand, the increased flow, and availability can create a management problem for the easily distracted human faculties, which are evolutionarily wired to be physiologically rewarded by new information. The technological advancements we are immersed in, can easily play into the brains addictive centres through the way we interact with the technology – and marketing and software engineers are well aware of these factors. As with any technology, we want to take what is useful to us, and refine down what is harmful to us. To gain the benefit from an upregulated learning capacity, whilst reducing the harmfully distracting effects of highly available, streaming media, and other distractions.
Attention spans in adults and children are at an all-time low, which is markedly related to the way in which we are accessing information. Yet, child geniuses the World over, are inventing innovative ideas, only because they have had access to the internet and have become auto-didacts.
Technology is our servant, so how can we make it work for us, and not against us?
First of all, we must know inherently the issues that technology creates, and the ones that may inhibit the learning process.
Then, when we know the threats, we can work to remove them from our environments and lives, through becoming aware of the threats they pose.
Secondly, becoming aware of the benefits, and the usefulness that technology provides us in our learning process, can provide us with the insight to see in what areas we can maximise the use of technology and where technology can be crucial to our development. From this we can create the role model use of technology, and follow the child geniuses along the path to freedom through innovation, and correct use of technology.
The issues that technology poses to the learning process are multi-faceted and interconnected, as the learning process itself is multi-faceted and complicated. Any degradation of the human, through the use of excess screen time, physical inactivity, or exposure to blue light or high radiation, or distracting media or games, can impact learning, because learning is best done, in a balanced state.
Where technology can truly benefit the learning process, is through precise use, and meaningful use, which is still something as a culture, we are discovering and coming to terms with.
Learning is optimised under certain physiological, psychological and environmental conditions.
We are in a better learning state, when our blood sugars are stable, when stress levels are low, when the gut is in a healthy state, we have no dominating health concerns, when the emotional life and relationships are balanced and healthy, when we are not distracted by peers, have a connection to the teacher, are in an environment with proper air flow and light, and on and on. Creating the ‘perfect’ conditions for learning is a long list of factors, that can only ever optimise the experience, rather than perfect it. But as we can imagine, for the teacher, especially in Pre-School – Year 12 education, modulating the environment, or controlling the children’s health and home life, is at the bottom of the list for teachers to be able to control or influence.
Integrating technology into a classroom setting can seem a hindrance to the teacher, who is already time poor, and under-resourced, in most current education situations. Therefore, implementing new strategies, or methods of learning that involve technology can be daunting and an added pressure to contend with. Especially in higher grades of school, keeping the phones, and iPads out of classrooms can be vital, so children are not distracted by social media or other entertainment available through their device - and many schools, have various policies for phone and device use.
Yet, the potential for an enhanced learning experience through technology, is possible. Simulated learning environments that can show 3D models in motion, can much better show and describe the motions of planets, the movement of tectonic plates, the anatomy of the human body, or the evolutionary morphology of various life forms than static books ever could – as Nature itself is 3D and more. Interactive ways of outlaying information in slideshows, and presentations can help to organise and display data in ways that are clear, logical and expedient. Online chat rooms and forums can provide teachers with follow up environments, where students can continue to learn in a workshop type setting with the teacher, whilst not even in the classroom. There are so many applications for technology, but ultimately it comes down to the teacher and the schools, knowledge and proficiency in managing correct, creative and efficient uses of technology for the students. This potential outcome for its positive use, is based on the teacher’s abilities to work with the technology in innovative ways, and to have access to the hardware and software required to create novel and emotionally connected experiences with technology in a classroom setting. If the teacher lacks time, resources, personal education in the use of tools, or lack of skills in using the technology, then the technology is no longer useful, and may be a distraction, or a burden to the user who is not proficient.
I took Information Processes and Technology (IPT) as a subject, in school from Year 7 onwards. Not once can I say I found myself in an environment, that maintained a stable and connected learning experience, around the use of computers. Whilst some of the schools I attended, had some rudimentary filters, which stopped the children from accessing game sites, or movie sites, or YouTube etc, the filter was flimsy, and the students found easy work arounds. Most of these IPT classes resulted in the playing of internet games, the searching for explicit and entertaining content, and avoiding the teachers gaze as students hurriedly click between screens, pretending as if they are working. Funnily enough, I was also the only student in my year to use Photoshop for my entire Year 12 art major project, and digitally edited and illustrated over 22 slides that I had hand drawn, into a sci-fi graphic comic strip. None of the teachers were proficient in Photoshop – so as an art student I was forced to learn myself, and had some mentoring sessions outside of school, with some of my older friends who were studying graphic design at university in Sydney. My experience was that those teaching IPT at the school I attended, had little way of keeping the children focused in a room full of computers. Those technical skills that I really wanted as a student to accomplish my vision for art, were unavailable to me at school, as the teachers were having trouble keeping up with using the technology in effective ways (not their fault), or the school had not by that stage recognised the importance of digital art in the World, to be significant enough to introduce it to the school’s toolset.
The reason I lay out my own experience, of a highly subjective school situation, is to demonstrate that I have seen the difficulty in using technology in the school room first hand, in over 3 schools. Better filtering software, more focused learning objectives and methods, teachers with up to date knowledge on technological trends, innovative ways that teachers can engage with students emotionally that includes the use of technology, teachers being curators for information found on the internet – these are some of the ways in which students may benefit more from computer subjects in school. In taking place in the classroom. It was nearly 100% goof off time, where I remember having push up competitions, wrestling, and playing a game with a rainbow dolphin that would flip around and shoot out into space with rainbows flying out of its butt – it was a great time, but it certainly was not an effective use of technology. It showed to me, even at the time, the distracted ‘boyish’ tendency, technology can have – where we love the toys, the games, and the thrill of technology – but we were easily distracted, overly amused with gimmicks, and all too ready to escape the rigors of real learning through some easy escapism, easily provided for us with the access to the internet.
On the other side of that coin, I still knew, that in order to complete my vision for my Year 12 art major, I had to take ‘technology’ into my own hands, and learn, in my own time, how to use the Photoshop software.
My art teacher delighted in my most rudimentary and from my perspective, boring free flowing sketches, and seemed to shun my more relished technical artworks. He didn't appreciate the digital World like I did, as I was born into it, unlike he was. I had grown up in an era of computers, where my Dad and I had defeated the game ‘chips challenge’ on an early Microsoft computer by the time I was 8 or 9. By the age of 13, I had my head buried in games like Age of Empires, Halo, Star Wars and racing car games. My art style and preferences for art creation demanded a more modern digital, technical skillset than the artists or art teachers of the 90's, 80's, 70's and earlier, had needed or had available to them.
In all of my learning experiences at school, my Year 12 art major was uniquely freeing, and invigorating. Here I was, pioneering into an art style that wasn't being taught, or couldn't be taught, within the confines of my school. I was becoming the expert in something, not even my teachers knew anything about. Suddenly freed from their expectations, and the need to satisfy their knowledge set or preferences, I found the experience immensely gratifying for my own self-worth, and the ability to complete a project on my own accord. Whilst I did seek mentors, I chose them for the skills that I needed. In order to get the results that I wanted, I needed to practice in my own time.
So why do I share this experience? Because the single most freeing, and exciting process that I underwent in my tertiary education, involved the novel, innovative and necessary use of technology. Without the technology, I was not able to complete a vision, that I had wished for. With the technology, it gave me the abilities to succeed in bringing about what I wanted. I was able to effectively interact with technology, to create a learning experience, that I wouldn't have otherwise had – and this to me is why technology can immensely benefit the learning process, if conducted effectively.
Technology has its benefits, and its pitfalls. We want to manage the technology in the classroom and ideally the home and lifestyle. So that it optimises the way in which we are learning, and reduces the harmful and negative aspects of the technology we use, or develop. As long as we can see the real benefits of technology; novel learning tools, interactive learning tools, 3D modelling, non-local learning experiences, instantaneous resources, emotionally engaging learning experiences, we know what technology is good for. We also know that it has the great ability to distract away from learning and true experience. Using technology in a clear and purposeful manner is simply necessary, to avoid the pitfalls of its use.
Mitigating Harm from Technology
We cannot completely avoid technology in this day and age. We must form some level of interaction with the technological World to remain ‘connected’ and utilise the tools that we have on offer, like the internet, communications etc. Yet, there is some potential pitfalls of engaging too much, or in harmful ways.
So, what can we do to reduce the impact of technology in practical ways?
Reducing Harm for Children
Our roles as parents, and educators for the children of this World, is as guides, that can help the children safely move towards the future that they dream of, whilst being aware to the best of our abilities, of the best and safest ways of getting there. In the modern World, there are many threats to the education and safety of our children, that we need to be aware of.
The millennial generations are immersed in a totally different cultural, social and technological environment than their parents were exposed to. So in order to help guide our children in this World, we need to become aware and informed about the major influences, technology has on the children, that are coming in from the World and how to manage them.
Here are five major issues with technology for children:
1. The use of technology itself - iPads, television, smart phones, Fitbits, games, social media, movies and content, digital purchases etc, comes with many threats to the wellbeing of children who have developing brains and bodies. Wireless signals have been classified to be unsafe, and linked to tumours and cancer of brain and heart. Children are more susceptible to this type of radiation. Screens and blue light, damage the eyes, create near-sightedness, and increase stress levels in the brain and body. Exposure to screens interrupts circadian rhythms interrupting sleep. 
2. The ‘social media environment’ is not an issue that many children below the age of 12 are having to worry about, but studies in the UK and US, show directly correlated depression and health symptoms appearing for teenagers who spend more time on social media. Girls are more affected by social media app use, due to the increased social tendencies of females, and the interrelated issues that arise from social media – unrealistic beauty standards, waiting for approval for images posted, waiting for likes, bullying and harassment, and excessive screen time.
3. The ergonomics and postural/bio-mechanical concerns of the use of technology. Having children sit for hours in front of screens, with forward head posture, slumped shoulders and collapsed spinal arches can create great muscular and postural imbalances for children. When, in this phase of childhood, in healthy development, the amount of play time with the natural World directly results in the stabilising of the core, and development of key muscles structures that help maintain posture throughout life.
4. The distance created from the ‘real’ World is supported and induced through the use of technology. When we have an interactive game that teaches us how to write, or learn maths, it is said to be a benefit of the learning process that no teacher is present, because the child can relate to the fictional character of the game and feel more comfortable in answering to the computer generated ‘fun’ character than the teacher or parent. Whilst this may be true for some, the long term of this type of educative process, does not equip children with face to face skills, or communicating with different types of people, parents, and mentors. The more time is spent learning through a screen, the less likely it is, that skills are being cultivated that make learning in other contexts that are human related, possible or easier.
5. Addiction and the use of technology and games is a well-developed field of research which categorically shows how the use of games, and online media can induce drug like affects in the brain, that over time, alter brain chemistry and cause users to become physiologically and emotionally dependent upon their devices and the games played. Inventors of such technologies, or games have admitted they do not let their own children play the games that they have developed because they know about the addictive nature of the game - because they engineered it to be that way! Reward based games, and progression based game and character development, allow for a sense of accomplishment and development within the game, that rewards the brain periodically through the release of dopamine which occurs upon the completion of any task. This creates a cycle of addiction for the game and gaming experience. Boys are much more likely to be involved in game addiction, as where girls are more likely to be addicted to social media apps.
It is obvious that the use of modern wireless technologies, social media, technology based learning, games, and portable devices come with a slew of negative effects – but there are also the positive effects that come from this technology – so how do we get the good, and mitigate the bad?
Here are five strategies that can work to mitigate those negative effects of technology for children:
1. Adopting safe wireless strategies - Becoming aware and educated as parents and educators about the harmful aspects of wireless technologies. It is a great way to understand the nature of wireless signals. Turning off wireless modems when not in use through the use of timers, and hardwiring all devices in the home and classroom (tablets and iPhones can be outfitted with hardwired technologies) is safe. Keeping wireless devices as far from the body as possible. Keeping wireless devices away from the bedroom. Limiting the time spent in front of devices, are all effective ways at minimising exposure from radiation coming from devices.
2. Not allowing our children to use social media until it is absolutely necessary. Early adoption of social media has been shown to negatively impact development and the health of growing young people. Sometimes social pressure is severe, when many of the students in a peer group are accessing and using software like Facebook or Instagram – it is difficult to be ‘left out’ so parents often cave to pressure.
Have discussions with other parents to assess and act on:
What is an acceptable age for the adoption of social media apps? (even teens and adults struggle with social media)
What rules can be put in place among the parents so it is consistent?
3. Assessing the ergonomics of how our children use devices is essential in developing a long-term harm mitigation strategy for the use of technology. The biggest factor here is always going to be:
Limiting screen time. In Israel, any children in school from the ages of Year 2 - Year 6 is limited to 3 hours of screen time per week in class. Similar recommendations are made for outside of class time. Obviously, some parents will follow through with this advice, whilst others, do not.
To create an ergonomically sound situation using hand held devices, requires touch screen holders, and stands, which can attach the tablet device to a desk, and also suits having the device hardwired in. This will allow for a better posture when using the device that does not allow the device too close to the body or eyes, and is kept at a position that allows for better posture, and will reduce postural harm.
Our major adult work force is statistically fed up with the amount of time they have to sit, and many intuitively know it is damaging their health. When adults are using up to 11 hours of screen time a day between work and leisure, it may be hard for them to tout habitual changes to their children, but if we want to secure a future for our children, that doesn't involve 11 hours in front of a screen, we need to start having a serious think about how we manage these things in our own life.
4. When our children are using technology, and interacting with it – this is a crucial opportunity for teachers and parents to be present with them throughout the experience. We can help use our adult experience of life to contextualise and develop on the information presented by the game or media. Asking questions like ‘why’ and ‘how’ something works, will stimulate more discussion and understanding as to the processes behind the media. Allowing it to become more interactive instantly, and create a hybrid of learning styles – one that is a blended learning, utilising technology, and human to human feedback and communication. Researchers assessing the usefulness of technology in classrooms and for education, all highlight the increased need for teacher engagement throughout the use of technology to keep children connected, engaged and focused with the materials – so they do not lose the correct context of the use of technology in their lives, as a learning tool and medium for innovation.
5. Being aware of the addictive nature of games, media, and technology allows us to make better decisions for our children. Not allowing certain games, limiting time allowed on screens, creating awareness and having conversations around device addiction amongst parents and teachers and then unifying strategies together, will help win the battle against peer pressure based media influences.
Sometimes, there will be one or more parents who simply do not care what their child views or plays, and this will undermine the rest of the group, as the child will talk about the game, and how fun it is etc, making the other children feel as if they are missing out. In this case, we must work with the situation we have been given, and communicate with the parents who are willing to discuss technologies and it impact.
Technology in classrooms, is going to differ vastly from school to school, from class to class, and from age group to age group. Whilst technology has begun to be introduced into Pre-School learning environments, there are some early adopters of iPad based learning for Pre-School children, especially in America, Australia, England, and NZ.
I, and other researchers, and countries like France, Belgium, Israel, Russia, Bulgaria, Italy and more, are of the opinion, that this is far too young for children to be heavily exposed to portable device based learning, needing screens for learning, or being exposed to wireless signals.
It is clear from the European research conducted around wireless signals, that children are under the most risk, due to their undeveloped blood brain barrier, more easily compromised DNA structures, and increased stem cells.
The biggest modern threat to the health and productivity of early learning spaces, is the incorrect implementation of device based, wireless learning. The biggest things on a checklist for an early learning centre, to assess terms of technological safety is:
1. Exposure of students and staff of wireless signals.
2. Exposure of students and staff of un-natural lighting and blue lights.
3. Exposure of students and staff to un-natural seated positions, with forward head posture (poor ergonomics).
4. Critical relevance of the technology being used (Applicability, ethical apps and games etc).
5. Do teachers have enough time to reliably interact with students throughout the use of technology, as mentors? Or is it being used as a baby-sitting device?
Solutions are still being sought, and forged. Yet many companies will now come and assess the levels of wireless radiation in the classroom, office and home settings. If they are high enough, multiple solutions can be enacted to reduce exposure – including; hardwiring devices, radiation limiters, and shielding technologies.
Creating wired solutions, is ideal for safety, and many European countries have adopted this strategy, and are opposing wireless innovations, which are largely untested.
Why Screen Based Learning in the Early Years is unnecessary – and if used, heavily curated
Moving away from iPad based learning, especially at the Pre-School level is ideal. Children will be exposed, in non-class room settings to screen time. Early learning is one of the best times in education for the teacher to make an emotionally connected and grounded, playful interactive experience for the children. Let us not waste this opportunity with unnecessary screen time. If screen time is a necessity of the learning space or centre, then direct curatorship of the tools and content must be applied. Technology is a supplement to learning, not the main course.
Advanced 3D models for learning, student forums, online workshops, and instantaneous resources have little to no relevance for the Pre -School child, who does not have the clear capacities or needs, to be using that level of technology in the first place. Whilst there are definitely some apps that have potential in helping to teach the alphabet, learn about animals and objects, or the World, these resources can also be easily found in books and tactile resources. If technology must be used in a particular early learning environment, the time spent should be an allocated amount, and the app and media options available on the device should be heavily curated and limited. The teachers are best to engage with all students, whilst they engage with the software, helping the student to see the tool as something that still keeps them engaged to people in the learning process. Screen time, respectively in this instance should be moderated, and kept in a low ratio compared to other interactive, hands on learning experiences, using the technology as a supplement, rather than the main tool.
Adopting Technologies in the Classroom
Challenges and Opportunities
Pushing technological innovations on teaching staff in an early learning environment, may create added pressures on the teacher, now trying to learn new software, as well as manage the classroom.
In some school settings, where technology is more available, or being pushed by sales reps with new ‘early learning’ games, it may seem like an easy option for teachers to adopt devices, which can give the teacher opportunity for the children to be absorbed in a task that seems to be functioning by itself. The blind spot for the teacher here is to disengage with the students during the use of devices, believing that the app, is ‘doing its job’, when the best use of technology always involves a mentor, and human interaction.
Teachers provide the real bridge between the student experiencing the software, and the real World.
Questions from the teacher like ‘why did you choose that?’ or ‘can you think of another way of doing it?’, may stimulate thoughts beyond the automated click and select options that the games provide. Teacher interaction during this phase of learning with technology, will also help the student to contextualise that the process of interacting with technology is about learning, and not an entertainment device that keeps them away from interacting with parents or anyone else.
Homes can either be the safest, or the hardest to manage element, and this all depends upon the environment, culture, parents, location and more.
Everything depends upon management. In a classroom, when the Principle becomes aware of health concerns, or the industry becomes aware of the threat of radiation (as has occurred in much of Europe, for instance) safety checks become a standard, and there will be regular testing of radiation levels in a building. In the home, the management of the environment comes down to the parents who are managing the household. The household institution is not overly regulated by any governing body, other than the parents, who hold their own opinions and views on how the World is, and operates. Often times, in a family dynamic, one partner may want a change, and another partner will deny the change. There are obvious complications when it comes to rendering change in a household, but many of the same principles apply, it is just a choice of the parent to implement these strategies or not.
1. Hardwiring devices in the home - creates a safer, low radiation space. Ethernet cables are used to connect to TV's computers, gaming devices, and tablets, rather than wireless modems.
2. Modems and wireless routers (if used), are put on a timing switch that turns the devices off overnight, or when not in use.
3. Screen time is limited, and time spent playing off devices is promoted and encouraged.
4. The content accessed, is restricted and reviewed through the careful curatorship of the parents, and the use of media locks and parental controls that can be accessed and installed on all devices.
5. Conversations and communications are open, with our children around their interaction with technology. We communicate with them our concerns, and the dangers of the technology. Also, when peers are accessing certain media or games, having conversations with other parents around how that might be impacting the children connected in the peer group. Provide the studies and show the evidence, of which there is enough to convince the most ‘scientifically’ minded person.
6. Limiting screen exposure in the evening time, as blue light from screens is known to interrupt circadian rhythms, and in turn interfere with the biological rhythm of the body, leading to mood disorders, health concerns and learning difficulties.
7. Play whatever games, and watch the media our children choose with them. This connects them to a social experience, and builds connection with them. It helps them to see that technology is best suited to interactivity, and is not to be used as a parenting device, so that the kids can be distracted.
These suggestions may seem like a lot to ask, for busy parents, or single parents, or even any parents. These are not doctrines, or rules so much as guidelines and information on the safe, and effective use of technologies.
How you implement these ideas, is dynamic, and multi-faceted, but important to explore and discover. Controlling the home environment is within the hands of parents.
Controlling classroom environments, is largely connected to the funding, allocations, and current understandings of the educational facility, and to a lesser extent, the principal, the teachers and then the parents.
As parents, teachers, principals or mentors, we know that it is impossible to control all aspects of a child’s development, and to an extent, children are simply exposed to society and culture naturally.
Yet, in the environments that we can take charge of, creating a safe and healthy space will provide a contrast in the child’s life, when they are exposed to the more challenging aspects of technology.
Creating a tech aware household, will create a counter force in our children’s life, which will give them a deeper context for the use of technology, helping them to avoid some of the issues that we see are literally plaguing the youth, and older generations today. Game addiction, obesity, social dysfunction, brain and heart tumours, and depression and anxiety created through social media.
Aligning ourselves, and our children to a healthier use of technology in the home and with our habits, will set our children in a better stead to deal with the next waves of innovation in tech that will affect the next generations.
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