Summit Reads panel discussion takes place Thursday, May 21, in Breckenridge |

Summit Reads panel discussion takes place Thursday, May 21, in Breckenridge

Dave Bittner.
Special to the Daily |

If you go

What: Panel discussion for Summit Reads Community Project

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, May 21

Where: Summit County South Branch Library, 103 S. Harris St., Breckenridge

Cost: Free

More information: Copies of this year’s book, “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains,” by Nicholas Carr, are available at the Summit County Library branches for purchase or to check out and at The Next Page Books & Nosh in Frisco. Call the Main Library at (970) 668-555 to learn more.

The 2015 Summit Reads Community Project will host its final event, a free panel discussion with local technology experts, on Thursday, May 21, at the South Branch Library in Breckenridge. Continuing the focus of the committee’s book choice, “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains,” by Nicholas Carr, the discussion topic will be technology and its effects on our society.

“We wanted to hear from local technology gurus on how the Internet is creating an impact on their jobs, education and lives,” said Joyce Dierauer, Summit Reads committee member and executive director of the Summit County Library.

Dave Koop will be the moderator for the six-member panel discussion. He moved to Summit County in 1976 and has worked with Summit County’s water systems for the past 17 years as a member of the town of Frisco staff.

“Over time and on different levels, I have experienced a change in the way people communicate,” Koop said. “As the avenues of communication increase in number and speed, there does not appear to be a corresponding increase in quality of communication. I don’t understand why, and I am working at figuring it out.”

Members of the Summit Reads panel include Dave Bittner, who teaches technology classes at the Summit County Senior Center; Summit High School senior Kaeli Subberwal; Elizabeth Lowe, Summit County Head Start director at Early Childhood Options; Andy Schoeneman, who has taught at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge for 15 years, mostly in the realm of philosophy; and Dr. Carol Gerard, who retired last year after working in the mental health field for 40-plus years.

After each of the panelists has spoken, Koop will open the discussion to the audience for questions.

“After Nicholas Carr visited Summit County and discussed what his philosophy was on the Internet and each generation that has been affected by it, Summit Reads wanted people to know what Summit County locals see and sense on this topic,” Dierauer said.

Early impact of Internet

From her perspective, Lowe said the Internet and related technology have both positive and negative impacts. Technology can be beneficial for children with special needs, she said, as well as a great way for teachers and parents to communicate.

“Young children are seeing their parents and older siblings on technology devices, and they want to imitate that, which is natural,” she said. Teaching preschool-age children basics — what’s a keyboard, what’s a mouse and how to be safe on the Internet — is important, but screen time at the wrong age, or in the wrong amounts, can be detrimental to development. Young children learn and develop around relationships, Lowe said, and constantly being attentive to tech devices can interfere with those relationships.

“Infants, when they are first born, can only see about 8 to 10 inches away, about the distance of feeding with a bottle or breastfeeding,” she said. “It’s really important in that time that the parent is visually making eye contact with the baby because the baby will search out faces.

“If the parent is distracted, whether it’s TV, cellphone or working on a computer while nursing, I worry about those lost opportunities of interaction between the child and the parent.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than 2 have no screen time at all, Lowe said, which includes computers and TV, and when children get into preschool, parents and teachers should be mindful and intentional of any screen time.

“If a child’s going to get on the computer, what’s the purpose?” she said. “Is it a babysitter, is it an educational piece, is the parent or the teacher able to sit down and engage with the child with the technology? … Play and relationships are really vital for early development, and a computer is never going to replace that.”

Losing literacy

A self-described “late adapter” to technological advancements, Schoeneman said he lives in a home without TV, Internet or even a cellphone. Admittedly biased about tech and its role in our lives, he said he’s mainly noticed the negative effects it has had on students in his classroom.

“The most obvious negative is the lessened attention spans,” he said. “During my lectures, students will furtively check their email under the desks and things like that. As far as literacy rates, it’s rather disturbing, and I attribute this to the multitude of screens that young people are exposed to every day.

“When I ask them about literary references, what has affected them, and they’ll mostly refer to television and maybe movies that they’ve seen, which tells me that they just aren’t reading books anymore, the classics.”

Education has become more focused on the practical, which means incorporating technology at every turn, Schoeneman said, but it’s at the expense of other knowledge that doesn’t necessarily directly translate to earning potential.

“I think that in the home, perhaps parents are maybe instigating this or furthering this by them being on screens and children taking up the habit,” he said. “It’s hard to put a measure on the results. What is the different between having Shakespeare and not? That’s difficult to say.”

Technology is pervasive in our culture to the point of affecting our very notion of values, Schoeneman said, replacing solitude with constant connectivity and alienating those who choose not to embrace it.

“We’re up here in the mountains, where nature is just so beautiful, and I think people would rather play Angry Birds than look at the real birds that we have up here,” he said.

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