Teaching – and Learning – How to Build Better Relationships through Conversation

Technology gives students – from preschool to higher education – the ability to learn in ways their parents and grandparents never had. Today’s learners have immediate and always-on access to answers and research. Yet, it’s changing the way they approach work, their capacity to reflect, reason and draw conclusions, how they feel emotionally, and how they interact with the world around them. By applying Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation™ tools, our classrooms can excel at both new technology and in-person connection.

Sherry Turkle acknowledges the effects of technology on students and learning are complicated – both in terms of benefits and detriments. But she’s certain that our current generation of students (and their parents and teachers) alike are overly reliant on technology, impacting their ability to form quality relationships. Conversation, she says, has a tremendous role to play in education.

Sherry discusses the tech-life imbalance and its ripple effects through education. In primary schools, kids struggle to form authentic friendships. Screen time – their use of it, but also the mere presence of technology – has stunted their emotional development. What results is a lack of empathy, or their ability to relate by listening and learning, that will plague them throughout their school years, follow them into the workplace and ultimately, impact the quality of relationships with their boss, colleagues, spouse, and children. In college and higher education, Sherry points to students who don’t want to come to office hours anymore, preferring to interact with professors through email. It’s a fantasy, she says, that they can send me a perfect email: “They can present themselves as perfect and ask me their exact question, and that I will send them their exact perfect answer back.” Faculty need to resist the temptation to give in.

Simply put, Sherry believes we’re enabling students to turn conversations into transactions. We’re helping them take the easy way out for the sake of convenience; it’s time to put an end to that cycle and reclaim conversation in education. Importantly, the goal isn’t solely encouraging more and better conversations. It’s about teaching children and young adults how to self-reflect and build relationships online and off, at school, at work and in life. By applying her Reclaiming Conversation™ framework, Sherry can help.