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How Google Maps made me a better man

Found in: Leadership Blog

I have a friend, he now lives in Seattle, Washington and he hates technology... often complaining about computers and smartphones and their effect upon us all. He doesn't have a TV or watch movies. What a chore it was to connect with him on Facetime!

I think we all have a friend like this (or maybe we are that friend). So I wrote him a letter just after my recent long motorcycle trip to tell him how technology had improved me... at least for a time.

During the trip, I had to navigate through unfamiliar cities or back roads in complex ways. I didn't really want to buy a motorcycle GPS as they're quite expensive. A friend told me he used his smartphone, connected to earplugs under his helmet. It sounded like a good idea. It's probably worth noting that I'm quite a visual kind of learner. I'd much prefer having a screen direct me without noise.

The first time I tried this was riding alone from Port Melbourne to the Mornington Peninsular at 5.00 a.m. This meant riding right through Melbourne CBD - quite daunting with all their weird intersections, tram tracks, traffic and confusing lights.

The challenge was that I could only find my way by attentively listening to that calm woman's voice. In case you didn't get the magnitude of the challenge, let me repeat it.... ATTENTIVELY LISTENING!

Oh yes, at random times; right out of the blue, the calm woman would give me a direction - I was only safe if I concentrated, listened and obeyed.

You can see now I hope, how both profoundly challenging and beneficial this adventure in really listening was for me. Yes, Google Maps helped me to concentrate on really listening (pause to smile!).

I hope you can see the humour in this anecdote on how technology can improve us. Remember the saying "Fire is a good servant, but a bad master"? The same goes for technology. Technology should always been seen as a tool that can help when used within correctly understood and defined parameters. Technology can be used well or poorly, for good or evil.

A number of years ago, when we introduced iPads and laptops as Bring Your Own Device from Year Five, parents were concerned that students handwriting would deteriorate.* Part of this was due to our tendency to subliminally insert the word 'exclusively' into our thinking.

"We'll use keypads at school" becomes "We'll use keypads at school exclusively". Now, years later, students are both writing and using keypads. Technology is a tool, not a foe or a master. The benefit is most complete when we thoughtfully consider rules, parameters, limitations and outcomes of its use. This is profoundly pertinent in both school and at home, especially as we are introducing young people to technology and how to use it well.

*worth noting; my hand-writing is atrocious he he.

Mr Rod McNeill