Discussion about Technology in Seattle

Last week, we launched the first of our “Dialogue Tour” sessions in Seattle where nearly 100 alumni, parents, and friends of the College joined us for an engaging evening of conversation about our favorite shared passion—Swarthmore! It was a wonderful opportunity for me to travel to that city for the first time and begin to talk with our broader community about the strategic planning exercise we have just begun. So many of the “macro” themes that will help shape our planning efforts—sustainability; globalization; the changing ways in which knowledge is created, taught, and learned; and technology—arose as topics of conversation during the evening.

One alum asked whether or not technology may be contributing to a lack of interpersonal connectedness for those generations being raised with so much more communication occurring via the Internet. Can an overuse of technology actually create a growing sense of isolation and detachment from one another?

Although I don’t see much evidence of this phenomenon on our campus, we do need to think carefully about the advantages and disadvantages of technology. I know that our working group on The Future of Knowledge and the Ways in Which Knowledge Is Taught and Learned is doing just that. I am particularly concerned about the impact technology may be having on communication skills for this and future generations of students. Several recent studies indicate that students are less able to communicate effectively in job interviews, for example. These are exactly the kinds of questions we will delve into as we consider the future direction of the College.