Are tablets really a good thing….?
I was having a conversation with a respected teacher, explaining the work of Midzi.org. He is an amazing, natural educator. One of the things I enjoy when I talk to him, is that he tends to prod my thinking from another perspective. His question when I explained that Midzi works with schools to provide laptops and tablets to students was, “Are tablets really a good thing?”
I paused, and immediately understood what he was saying. The African experience that both he and I know, runs at a very deliberate pace. A year truly feels like a year. Maybe longer. People eat together for meals, whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner, primarily at home. Africans make the time to prepare food. There is no hurrying.
The concept of “fast” food only happens if you are outside the home… When in Africa, I would normally wait until I got home to have a meal.
As a teenager, I sometimes grimaced at the saying: “There is no hurry in Africa!”
Not everyone has a car! Many people walk, ride bikes, or used public transportation to get from A to B. Time is a guideline, but one is generally not ruled by a clock. In fact, it is rude to look at a watch if one was socializing… one pays more attention to an event… and less attention to how long the event is, or what time it officially starts. I will give another example.
When in Africa, if my mother asks me to meet her in down-town at 11am, there is a chance she will show up at 2pm! And yes, she still expects me to be there.. waiting at the agreed-upon rendezvous. This is not because she does not care about time. If she is coming from her house… she might want to make sure she has done what she deems important before leaving her house. Possibly watering some vegetable plants in the garden so they don’t wither in the sun. Likely she might cook a robust meal to make sure she has the necessary energy to make the trek into downtown. Then she will pretty herself up appropriately for a trip into town. No casual jeans. I don’t believe she has ever owned a pair. And then of course, she needs to navigate her way to a street intersection, and wait for a public taxi or bus. Deliberate pace. It is not about the clock.
Is this a way to run a society? There is a mindfulness in this way of living and being. And also an awareness others. If I have a conversation with a friend about something she thinks is important… I do not worry about the clock and how I am scheduled to be at another place. The clock does not rule. I pay attention to the event (the conversation) until the event is over. If necessary I might tell my friend that I am expected elsewhere, but even extricating myself from the conversation is a deliberate process, a ritual.. it would be rude to do so without first making sure my friend was ok, and I was parting when we both were satisfied we had concluded our event.
There is an awareness of what is going on around you.
People are outdoors, every day. The outdoors and meeting people, are way more interesting than staying indoors. You neighbors are outside too, so likely you will make the time to talk, gossip… share tips on how to best accomplish mundane tasks. Laugh. And laugh. And laugh some more. I have said this many times: the funniest people I have ever met, are in Africa. When everyone has relatively so little, happiness is less in what you own, and more in simple things, like a good laugh. You laugh at each other. You laugh at yourself. You discover laughter in the most unexpected places, even in tragic situations.
Taking a computer tablet to a culture where there is joy in simple things; relationships, events, family… would a tablet add to the joy, or would it isolate people? Or make kids whose games are normally dodge ball, running or climbing trees, turn to digital streaming?
Yes, I understood what my teacher was saying. Yes, tablets will bring technology and more education to places where “education” is dodgy, but on a scale… between unfettered happiness, and being ruled by a clock, which would you choose? Between being deeply connected to the world around you, and being connected to the “world” through the internet, which one would you choose?
Can there be a balance in both worlds? Or are things so off-kilter that once one is introduced to the digital world, there will inevitably be a break down of what holds old societies together. What do you think?