She just wasn’t listening. I learned early in life to always try to be a gentleman and I was trying. I was being patient. I was being soft spoken. I was slowing my words down just to make sure I was understood. Though I didn’t think the misunderstanding was my fault, I still accepted the blame.

But no matter how many times I repeated my words, she just wasn’t listening. I asked and asked again, always carefully pronouncing her name each time. And, each time, she just kept telling me she couldn’t understand. And, because of that inability to understand, she wasn’t about to grant my request or even consider it. It was definitely a failure to communicate.

I had a sudden realization that, if I didn’t get this fixed, my life was going to become nothing but unopened garage doors, dead thermostats, darkened living rooms and video cameras recording nothing while I sit, trapped in my dark, hot low bandwidth home. And no music for the remainder of my earthly life. My network had become a notwork. I was now suffering from buffering.

“Please turn the lights on.”

“Please turn on the lights.”

“Lights please.”

“Got a light?”

Nothing. Nothing but her sweet, yet business-like voice apologizing for not helping. In my world, apologies are fine. But, after the apology, you’d think maybe a little help? She just wasn’t listening….

 

I carry this wonderful oblong technology in my shirt pocket. I’m often holding it in my hand. Sitting at the airport, swiping across the screen, looking intensely at nothing and everything. In other words, fitting in.

I can research, tell the world what I’m doing, check on calendar dates with this thing. I can create, recreate and keep up with my world while my world keeps up with me.

Not sure why, though, it’s called my “phone”. Admittedly, I can call anyone. And, I can take your call. But you probably won’t call me. Oh, you’ll contact me. An email, a text, a notification. All written in clear language, telling me what you want me to know. Or written in auto-correct language, leaving me to try to figure out what you want me to know.

But the fact that I can speak to another person on this device now just seems to be an “added feature”. A luxury from by-gone days before we achieved greatness. “By the way,sir, this phone can actually serve as a phone for speaking to another human…….just in case you decide to go all nostalgia.”

 

This leap into digital is retraining me to talk and listen to machines while simultaneously teaching me to type to humans. Now, I’m not some old man sitting on my front porch shaking my fist at the passing vehicle of technology. I’m really trying.

But I’m just about at the end of my log in capacity. My mind has a limited number of filing cabinets. And a limited number of folders in those mental cabinets. The “username and password” filing room is about full.

It would be much easier if everybody played nice together. But they don’t. Everybody is so self important. If I could just have one username and one password for every program or software or application, that would be a beautiful world. But, no, that would be too easy. “Include a symbol” “Capitalize” “Eight letters, sixteen letters, twelve letters or numbers” “Include a numeric and an alphabet” “Add this and forget that”

“Now, about those security questions….”

My wife and I had much more peaceful trips before the smooth-voiced woman, obviously living in some satellite overhead, started telling me where to turn, when to u-turn and how to return. Funny, she never offers the “why”.

Technology is teaching me to talk to machines and type to humans. Save the speech for the machine. Limber up the fingers to communicate to the human.

 

So so what does any of this have to do with the paradigms of teaching & learning? Just this…….engagement is steadily getting flipped on its head. Engaging with a machine is getting to be necessarily common. The power of body language means nothing anymore. Emoticons & emojis are supposed to somehow express my emotions.

In a transformed learning system, we can give students opportunities that have never been possible. And in the digital world outside the classroom, we have opportunities that have never been possible.

However, one of the parallel possibilities could be that we may redefine engagement. In the former teaching systems, we were not afforded the incredible engagement potential that our teachers have for every learner they shepherd. We can now do this.

But that doesn’t mean every suggestion or requirement that gets lobbed our way in the digital will be for our own good. Engagement…..human beings in the form of educated adults passionate to change lives engaging with learners, has to keep being defined as personal contact.

Teachers can and will engage, if given the opportunity that technology now gives. But we have to remain steadfast in our demand that the engagement be direct, personable and genuine. That connection is still the only one that matters.

Even as the digital world my grandchildren know conditions younger generations of learners to talk to machines and type to humans, the incredible art and gift of engagement between teachers and learners will continue to be neurologically powerful. Let’s champion that even as we move forward in transforming education.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. The sun sets in a half hour and I desperately need to figure out how to turn these lights on.