Is it silly to plan for the ultimate failure of technology?

I was recently in a room of like-minded academic professionals at a conference. It was so great to have such equivalent enthusiasm for teaching and learning surrounding me! We were discussing the next edition of an accounting textbook that we commonly use, and after a great morning of getting to know one another, I asked a question that I think about often.

I teach an online accounting (bookkeeping) course. 95% of their assignments are all on the internet. As a Gen Xer, my view may be somewhat old-fashioned, but I can’t help but wonder if we are relying up on technology too much.

My question really was “Is there a technology out there to have my students submit manual work or can we think about developing something? I’m thinking of a worst-case scenario – what if a huge solar storm destroys all our satellites and power grids and we find ourselves without electricity for a while. What happens if all we know is computerized accounting? Does the world just shut down?”

Now, I was serious. My philosophy of learning here is similar to the task of learning how to do long division by hand before being able to use a calculator in math class. If we rely too much upon computerized accounting systems, will we become incapable of reproducing a manual system in the case of need?

The response I received:

“Yes, the world will shut down”, accompanied by a roomful of condescending laughter.

I was humiliated but held my head high. Simply, I was astonished that I was the only one who felt this to be important and my “what if” scenario was ridiculous.

By all means, I support, know, and teach computerized methods, but I feel that we need to understand what is really happening when you tell the system what to do.

Where do you stand on this idea? Do we need to still teach basic manual theories even though technology offers us amazing electronic solutions? Am I being silly by wanting to plan for a potential failure of technology?

I’d love to hear from everyone out there. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and I look forward to hearing your opinion!

~ Laura Bantz