by Christopher Paslay
In the Philadelphia School District, teachers are often evaluated on their use of technology in the classroom. Administrators want to know if we’re using laptops and Smartboards—if we’ve completed the latest training to bring us up to speed on Governor Rendell’s Classrooms For The Future—and if we’re taking full advantage of educational resources on the internet.
The theme seems to be the same in the world of business: Success is equated with the latest technology. If you don’t have the newest version of the Blackberry or iPhone—the one that sends real-time stock quotes along with up-to-the-minute baseball scores—then you are living in the stone ages.
But not all technology is positive, and as educators, we must resist the urge to buy into the hype and accept it blindly. I could go into a long-winded lecture about how electronic gadgets are killing our willpower and destroying our attention spans (not to mention how they are preventing us from living in the present moment), but I don’t want to go into that here; I’ll save that rant for another time.
Let’s start with Baby Shaker, the Apple multimedia application that allows users to shake their iPhone and in the process, silence the crying baby on the screen. Although Apple apologized and removed the program from their website because of complaints from child welfare groups, it’s inconceivable as to why Apple would have placed a game like this on the market in the first place.
For those who think Baby Shaker was just a harmless gag, they should understand what researchers in early childhood education have been saying for decades: the formation of a child’s IQ has a direct correlation to their interaction with their parents in infancy. A child who grows up in a home where his parents smack or shake him (as opposed to a home where his mother and father communicate non-violently), will not develop the vocabulary and reading comprehension skills to keep him on grade level.
So what does Apple’s Baby Shaker say about our society? What does it say about parents and their ability to make their children school ready? Call me behind the times, but Baby Shaker isn’t the best tool for improving education in America.
Then you have SpreadTweet—the latest creation for the trendy Twitter, the web-based communication service that allows people to stay connected to friends and celebrities through the exchange of quick, frequent, one-line text-messages.
When you subscribe to someone on Twitter, every time they send out a “Tweet” (a quick one-line text), you receive the message.
If Brittany Spears “Tweets” that she just got a sunburn, or if Snoop Dog lets it be known he just smoked a big fat blunt, you’ll get the message. Now multiply that by 50 celebrities and 75 of your friends, and you’ll be getting Tweets non-stop all day long.
But what happens to your Twitter addiction at work, when it’s time to head to the office? Well, tech geeks have got that all figured out. A maveric web designer recently created SpreadTweet, a page on your computer that looks like a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet. According to a recent posting on AppScout, a technology website that reviews computer applications and other software, “If you’re a Twitter addict but work in an office that doesn’t condone your tweeting habits, you have a few options: You could actually do work; you could make yourself paranoid by looking over your shoulder as you post, or you could download SpreadTweet, an Adobe AIR-based Twitter client that looks exactly like a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet. It’ll let you post to Twitter freely, and when the boss walks by behind you, he’ll think you’re working—as long as he doesn’t lean in to see which spreadsheet you’re working on.”
It’s only a matter of time before a wise-cracking web geek creates a similar page for students who want to Tweet their friends while working in the school library. Instead of a spreadsheet, all these unconscionable techies need to do is build a page that looks like a phony research paper or chemistry project, and even more teachers will be on their students’ pay-no-mind-list.
Not all technology is positive. As educators, we must guard against the insidious effects of the latest software and electronic gadgets, and demand that big corporations have some moral fiber and stop pandering to society’s lowest common denominator.