When I lived in Fiji my house girl would often baffle me. When I asked if she would like a cup of tea she would reply, "Vinaka".
Vinaka means both yes thank you and no thank you. Nancy explained that it was the manner in which you said vinaka that indicated what you meant. After three years I could still not pick the difference and Nancy had no doubt drank enough tea to last her a lifetime.
The subtleties of body language and facial expression is something we learn over time from face to face interaction with real people. It is widely believed and backed up by current research that if you don't use neural pathways you lose them. Teenagers need to spend face to face time with real people to develop an understanding of the emotional experiences of others. They need to be able to understand and share the feelings of another. This takes practice and can not be learnt without real interactions with real people, in real settings. Constant use of digital devices for entertainment and communication threatens to weaken the neural pathways and development of areas of the brain that recent brain research shows are set down during childhood and the teenage years. Areas and pathways that relate to social and reasoning abilities.
I never developed the correct neural pathways to identify the difference between vinaka and vinaka and as a result Nancy drank far too much tea. One hopes that we do not fail in allowing our students of today to develop an understand of the subtilise of another. Such a failure could have devastating results if those students become the negotiators of the future.
So what does this mean to the school of today. Consider ensuring students have time to learn together from each other. Break times need to be a time to tool down and learn to interact with real people. Don't close the computer labs where students have to share and interact but do put away students' personal devices.
The one to one computer environment needs to be mixed with a one to one people environment.
Read the following books to find out more about current brain research:
iBrain - Small and Vorgan
Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, - John J. Medina
iPhone App: 3D Brain