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EdTech

Humans and Tech for the Win: Balancing Technology with Interpersonal Skills

Today is one of those days I’m grateful for both technology and human interactions. It’s the balance of those two that enabled me to survive what might sound like a really bad day.

This morning, as I was driving my son to pick up our dog from Low Pressurethe doggy hotel, I drove over a pothole in the road. Within a few seconds the dashboard on my car indicated I had low tire pressure, and within 30 seconds my tire was completely flat. Without the instant warning on my dashboard, I might not have known that I had a flat.

I was able to safely park the car. Using an app on my phone, I was able to summon a ride-share driver who was nice enough to drive us to the doggy hotel and wait while we picked up our dog. While the technology enabled us to get out of the rain, it was the driver who saw our needs and showed compassion. I have to admit, I’m not sure if I’d let a strange dog in my car before today.

After getting the dog home, I headed to the airport in another ride-share vehicle. Once I got to the airport, I contacted my insurance company to have the car towed. After all, I can’t leave it on the side of the road all week while I’m gone. I used an app to contact the insurance company and eventually spoke to a nice agent who was empathetic to my situation. He listened and, knowing that I was going to be hard to reach because of my flight schedule, arranged the tow right away. He texted all of the information to my son who was still at home. The tow truck company sent a few texts letting my son know when they would be there. He was able to walk back to the car and meet with the tow truck driver with no issues and no extended wait time. I thought this whole process would be a hassle, but it was a breeze thanks to the combination of technology and people who cared.

That probably sounds like a lot for one day, but my day didn’t Bad weatherend there. Due to some inclement weather in Houston, my flight to New Orleans was delayed a few times. Before I landed, I received a message from the airline about the delay on my phone. Their app even suggested a few alternative flights for me. I talked to the gate agent and he was able to put me on standby on the next flight out without forcing me to surrender my seat on my original delayed flight. Throughout the delay, I received updates through the app on my phone and from the gate agent. The combination of human interaction and technology enabled me to know exactly what was happening and what options were available.

As I was sitting on my final flight, I started to reflect on my day. If I saw this same series of events happen in a movie, I would think it was overkill. But the truth is, I’m not looking back on today with frustration; I learned a lot from my experiences.

I was reminded that technology alone isn’t enough to change the Smileworld—it’s the human interactions that we have along the way that really matter. I couldn’t have gotten through today without some of the technology, but I’d be just as lost if I hadn’t been greeted with people who cared about what was happening. This holds true for education as well. Finding the right balance between technology and face-to-face teaching is crucial for schools today.

I learned that interpersonal skills cannot be underestimated. I had to have the ability to speak clearly and know how to ask for help today. This is a soft skill that is often overlooked in an assessment-driven culture. Regardless of what our students dream to accomplish, interpersonal skills are more important than ever.

I also learned that problem-solving skills are just as important. Today, it didn’t matter what my high school AP test scores were. I survived today because of teachers who taught me to be creative and think things through before acting.

About the Author

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Stacy Hawthorne

Stacy Hawthorne, Lead Strategist at Hawthorne Education, works with schools and districts across the United States as they design and implement technology-rich educational models. She started her consulting work with Evergreen Education Group, authors of the annual Keeping Pace report and a trusted consultant to some of the largest school districts in the country. Prior to her work with Evergreen, Stacy conceived and implemented a successful blended learning program as Technology Integration Coordinator for Medina City Schools in Ohio. Her passion for student-centric and technology-rich learning models grew from her experience as a classroom teacher.

Additionally, Stacy is the Past-President for ISTE’s Administrator professional learning network. Stacy was awarded the Silver President’s Volunteer Service award in 2015 for her efforts. Stacy was a contributor to iNACOL’s Blended Learning Teacher Competency Framework that was released in October of 2014 and a researcher for the 2014 Keeping Pace with Digital Learning and 2015 Proof Points projects.