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Adolescence is a tumultuous stage wherein young people strive to know their selves better. From a time when they are under the loving care of their parents, they have grown reliant on them for all their needs. However, asserting their independence in these earlier stages may be limited to choosing the clothes they want to wear or going to a friend's house on some days. In Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development, adolescents are in the Identity vs. Identity Diffusion stage. It is a challenging time of testing limits, gaining more independence and establishing a new identity. There surfaces the need to clarify self-identity, life goals and life's meaning, and failure to achieve a sense of identity results in role confusion (Erikson, 1963)
Adolescents face many challenges in this particularly sensitive stage in their lives. They are fraught with so many issues that affect their thinking, choices and behaviors. Adolescence is a very trying time. It is when individuals struggle to establish their own identity in the face of changes and challenges that come their way. Not only are they adjusting to physical changes, but also emotional and social changes as well. For some, there is more to it than the usual adjustment to change, as some factors gravely affect their school performance.
Technology is one thing that adolescents gravitate to. The many features of gadgets never cease to amaze them, as if these were new toys they can continually explore. In their perennial search for their sense of self-identity, they may explore a variety of things until they finally learn where their hearts lead them. Technology is a tool that can take them there.
Technology for Learning
Progress dictates that people adapt to its changes so that they will not be left behind. The view that modern advances in information technology would greatly benefit learners is one that is being upheld in most schools and universities. According to the National Academy of Sciences (1995), schools recognize the need for students to be adequately prepared for the workplace in the future and take advantage of the information revolution in updating skills and knowledge of the youth. This is why schools facilitate learning using technological innovations in helping students learn how to work cooperatively in gathering, analyzing and utilizing information .
Information technology is a double-edged sword that may be a boon or a bane to education. Traditionalists cannot stop time from moving forward with technological advancements, yet maintain that students need to be taught traditional methods that have worked well in developing an individual's thinking long before the birth of information technology. Nowadays, online learning has made it possible for students to access all the information they need on certain matters. The internet, being very supportive of learning seems to have anticipated that learner support can come in many forms such as learner-to-learner, learner-to-instructor, instructor-to-learner, and learner-to-expert interactions. Anderson & Elloumi (2004) contend that apart from these, strategies to promote learner-context interaction to translate to real life experiences since it allows learners to develop personal knowledge and construct real meaning from the information.
Information and computer technology make online students interact with facilitators through email or webchats and with their peers in chatrooms or discussion boards. They get to receive updates from newsletters or email. There are support services available to online students to ensure that their professional goals and current capabilities are matched. Ludwig-Hardman & Dunlap (2003) argue that "This interaction with potential students not only helps them feel immediately connected with the learning community, but the diagnostic activities help them reflect on their learning goals and strategies, a process important to self-directed learning" (para.18). An ideal online learning system will be based on a plan that flows from a full understanding of two fundamentals: the needs of the intended students, and the learning outcomes of the course or program (i.e., the knowledge, skills, and attributes that students want) (Anderson & Elloumi, 2004). It differs from traditional learning in that "classroom experiences emphasize critical thinking, teamwork, compromise, and communication-the skills valued in today's workplace" (National Academy of Sciences,1995, para. 12) . The student takes a more active role in his learning while the teacher steps back just to guide the learning process and not to spoon-feed information.
The youth are fortunate to have such conveniences within their reach at this time. As early as the nineties, the ASKS (asynchronous knowledge sharing) prototype has already been designed to make learning more accessible even for those who are unable to step out of the comfort of their homes and venture into the world due to a number of reasons. It uses discussion boards with capabilities characteristic of most group decision support systems (Nunamaker, Dennis, Valacich, Vogel, & George, 1991). Learners and instructors access the system directly via the Web. The discussion board is the vehicle used to communicate each one's thoughts on certain matters related to the lessons. The National Academy of Sciences (1995) reiterates that the goal of ASKS is to foster communities of lifelong learners who all value intellect and cooperation.
On the other hand, there is still a camp that refuses to support this ongoing information revolution and still believes in the traditional methods to educate learners and that does not include expediting the learning process with artificial means (Himmelfarb, 1996). They believe that the computer's speed does not adjust to the pace of the comprehension of complex ideas of students. Basic academic skills should still be taught the traditional way so that children develop the critical thinking capacity to interpret and understand the volume of information they will be overwhelmed with in the future (Himmelfarb, 1996). As it is, the multimedia or hypermedia involved may already divert their focus on the essential messages that educational materials want to convey to them. "Worse yet, the constant exposure to a myriad of texts, sounds, and images that often are only tangentially related to each other is hardly conducive to the cultivation of logical, rational, systematic habits of thought" (Himmelfarb, 1996, para. 9). This means the rich and fast information sputtered out of the internet or software programs are indiscriminate of a topic's value over another, as one press of a key gives the same impact and emphasis on all topics available. Whereas in more traditional tools such as books, a chapter or two may be dedicated to more important topics authors deem highly significant for a learner to imbibe.
Known as the information highway, the internet may offer a multitude of road signs leading towards any topic of interest. The risk is for students to be shown the way to dangerous grounds. Restricted sites for children and adolescents may now be easily gotten around with, and these sites may pull the youth towards a dark world which imbue bad influences inappropriate in molding a young individual's character.
Although the advantages of information technology cannot be denied, it is true that students still need to be taught basic skills that would help them survive in situations when these modern amenities are not available. Schools should ensure the balance of teaching basic and more advanced and sophisticated skills. Incorporating computer education in schools does not mean that basic learning systems should be replaced, rather, both should complement each other with the optimization of student skills as the main objective.
Technology For Other Purposes
Being social beings, adolescents have a deep-seated need to establish personal relationships with others. Being able to talk to someone, to be in the company of another human being to share experiences, feelings, ideas, etc , to belongâ€¦ all of these are basic social and emotional needs that need to be fulfilled in an adolescent's life.
The question of how technology affects interpersonal relationships is becoming a popular issue nowadays. The generation gap between the older people and the younger generation is broadening. Older people are accustomed to candid conversations with eye contact and are usually adept at reading body language and nonverbal gestures. The young people of today are very much into technological communication via texting, internet chatting, tweeting, etc. and are engaged with their mobile phones, Ipods, Ipads and other gadgets. When brought together, the older people may complain that the younger ones are lacking manners because they do not know how to give due attention to their companions. It is as if they live in their own worlds, with their gadgets as their gateway to reach their friends. Family and friends have become more accessible and available in just a click of a button. The internet also offers a myriad of opportunities for meeting more people, relaxing with online games, sharing pictures and videos and an outlet to express innermost thoughts and feelings to share with others.
However, Bugeja (2005) explains how the proliferation of computer-mediated communication affects our views, expectations and interpersonal relationships. In computer-mediated communication, so many of our personhood becomes filtered that the communication lacks social cues. It then prevents the establishment of strong interpersonal collaboration and trust especially in cyber environments where invisibility is an option. Thus, when people chat online or send text messages, a lot of miscommunication may take place when the received messages are interpreted differently from how the sender meant it. This is because the text do not show people's tone of voice, facial expression or non-verbal gestures which contribute to the clarity of the message sent.
Technology provides instant gratification in terms of communication. As opposed to long waiting time for letters that have been mailed in post offices, an email goes through cyberspace in just seconds. However, it still lacks the personal touch. E-mails can only be read on the screen whereas handwritten letters can be touched, smelled, read and kept, to be read again later. Adolescents may not even appreciate this point because they have been born in an age when traditional communicative modes such as mailed letters in post offices, and even long face-to-face conversations may not be practiced as much in their own lives. They live in the age of technology which makes communication faster, although not as intimate. Bugeja (2005) contends that interaction using technology misses the point of having action between people. This means interaction involves physically coming together and spending time with each other.
McLuhan (1964) lyrically explained the impact of electronic media on the evolution of human beings. He foresees that people will biologically evolve into "information systems" and predicts the future possibilities of media and technology's role in the lives of people. This may be observed in libraries. Students have been trained to be computer literate but now lack skills to be socially literate when they ask for information. Their knowledge of library use has been so ruled by technology that they do not know the basics of searching through card catalogues. Librarians who have been updated with current trends in library science now become techno-translators and information mentors and seem to know how to find knowledge and information in the right places more than the students' professors whom Bugeja has described as thinking more "like Pentium rather than Plato". Educators should still provide what the students need and not what they want. Students today need knowledge but want entertainment. With advancing technology, the line between knowledge and entertainment becomes blurred because applications (apps) cater to the interests of the youth to make it more attractive, hence, lucrative for business.
It is very common for people nowadays to spend much of their day (and even nights!) in front of the television watching cable shows or marathon DVD films or in front of the computer working, surfing the internet, "facebooking", playing online games. Interpersonal relationships with families and friends who are physically present to them become neglected. Relationships suffer when there is lack of communication and in most cases, communication with actual people becomes limited because people are engaged in technological activities. Sure, adolescents have access to communicate with friends over the internet, but even these online relationships suffer from misinterpretations of messages due to lack of personal contact entailing sight, voice tone, facial expression, body language of the other person. In finding their identities, too much involvement with technology may get in the way of authentic discoveries about themselves, as electronic personalities may be the ones being formed and not their real identities.
People can connect to others via texting, chatting, skyping, emailing, video-conferencing, etc. but merely relying on such technology and not making an effort to connect in real life may leave gaps in the relationship that need to be filled. There is still nothing that beats being together emotionally, intellectually and physically. This is the foundation of human interaction.
Young people need to be guided accordingly by adults in preparing for the challenges they are bound to face in the future. Currently, this fast-paced world brings about so many changes that as one gets used to a new practice, another one is developed to replace it. One influential change is technology. Another complexity that befalls the youth is the changing morality that comes with progress which usually places them in a dilemma. These changes may leave the adolescents at a loss as to which changes to accept and adapt to and which ones to reject. Thus, the need for adolescents to be ably guided by wizened mentors who have their welfare in mind. Parents and educators are identified as such mentors, as they are supposedly matured, significant persons who are deeply involved in the adolescents' lives and have gone through a gamut of life experiences that arm them with the wisdom and skills to survive any challenge. They are appointed to lead the youth towards a brighter future by empowering them with skills and thinking necessary in their future lives.