Sunday Interview Highlight – Conor Galvin

Dr. Conor Galvin is an assistant professor in the School of Education in University College Dublin with vast experience of technology in education.  I met up with him at the 2016 annual conference of the Computers in Education Society of Ireland. I asked him if he saw any downside to the increasing use of technology in education or in society more generally.

Conor Galvin: Yeah, I do and I mean it involves the 3 a.m. syndrome, you know. We’re always on, we’re always connected, we’re always expected to be on call. The dog can’t eat your homework any longer and I have some reservations about that because I think that there are some times and spaces that are personal and private and that should not be, you know, open to the pervasive reach of technologies.  That’s a personal kind of thing as well and I mean I do exercise that in the sense that I do turn off my, my own technology from time to time. My kids don’t but that’s another story. I think, you know, things like the dangers of the Internet and so on, they’re very real but they’re overplayed in a lot of regards too. Most kids are far more sensible than we give them credit for in terms of looking after themselves. But I’m still very delighted to see things like Webwise and those initiatives and Safer Internet Week for that because they have to learn somewhere how to protect themselves. And it’s falling to schools an awful lot to do that work. It shouldn’t. It should be a shared responsibility between schools and homes but a lot of parents are still challenged by these issues and ideas, not as many as would have been in the past I know but I do think that there’s, that that’s a space that you watch all the time as well. I’m more worried about the wellbeing side of it than anything else and the idea that you are consistently on the clock and consistently in touch. I think you need those little silent spaces.
SD: Do you even find in your classes in UCD that students find it hard to put away their mobile phones sometimes?
CG: Yeah, but I mean I have a very simple solution for that….What I do is if there’s something that we’re doing that’s particularly important, I would ask them to nominate one or two people because they always want someone who will keep the notes. Students are obsessed about notes, so I say, “Okay, who’s going to do the notes?” And I get two people. They sit at the top with their laptops fired away. Everyone else turns off their technology because sometimes it’s important to just talk and to look at each other across a table and to argue and to discuss. And then you can kind of go back to your notes and, you know, make summaries of what we’ve discussed and so on. So that’s been part of my practice down the years as well. I have these kind of silent times where we don’t use technology. But it is hard to enforce….It puts it up to us as lecturers too, to make sure that if we do have a big session, that it is more palatable in a lot of ways. I don’t teach with that as the central plank of what I do but I always do try to make allowances for the fact that people do need their little tech touches every so often.

I interviewed Dr. Conor Galvin and you can hear a podcast of the full interview here.

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