Everything is amazing, nobody is happy

Here’s something that made me smile -  the comedian, Louis CK, talks about how we take technology for granted.

As Louis CK says, ‘those were simpler times’ when we had little of the technological possibilities we have now. I think we’re all guilty of taking new technology for granted. I still remember the dial phone, and yes, the zeros took ages to come back. One of our phones had a dial that used to get stuck and you had to help it back. Bad luck if you wanted to phone in quickly to be first caller for something. There are so many things that have been developed since I was born, it’s embarrassing. My boys find it hard to believe that when I was their age there were no microwaves(at least not in my part of the world). Definitely no mobile phones. We used to think we were lucky that a friend worked for the telephone company and gave us a couple of phones so we could have them in different rooms. When I was in primary school, we were one of the first families in our circle of friends to have a remote control for the TV. Some people would say, why do you need a remote? Why can’t you just get up and change the channel? Who would say that now? I used to think that mobile phones were an unnecessary luxury, and now I have a fit if I’m out without my phone. How happy I was when I used an electric typewriter with a corrector ribbon! How frustrated I am when my webpage takes too long to load.

But, as Louis CK says, we’re quick to get frustrated with technology without giving a thought to how incredible it is. I think that’s human nature. We get used to new technologies so quickly, and we complain about what’s not working, but we don’t often extol the virtues of our machines. Are we basically negative in our perceptions and reactions?

It’s funny to read Top 30 failed technology predictions.  Some of my favourites are:

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” — Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), maker of big business mainframe computers, arguing against the PC in 1977.

“A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.” — New York Times, 1936.

“Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical (sic) and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.” – Simon Newcomb; The Wright Brothers flew at Kittyhawk 18 months later.

“The energy produced by the breaking down of the atom is a very poor kind of thing. Anyone who expects a source of power from the transformation of these atoms is talking moonshine.” — Ernest Rutherford, shortly after splitting the atom for the first time.

“The cinema is little more than a fad. It’s canned drama. What audiences really want to see is flesh and blood on the stage.” -– Charlie Chaplin, actor, producer, director, and studio founder, 1916

“The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.” — Sir William Preece, Chief Engineer, British Post Office, 1878.

“Home Taping Is Killing Music” — A 1980s campaign by the BPI, claiming that people recording music off the radio onto cassette would destroy the music industry.

“Television won’t last. It’s a flash in the pan.” — Mary Somerville, pioneer of radio educational broadcasts, 1948.

Here’s a funny one:

“Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.” — Dr Dionysys Larder (1793-1859), professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy, University College London.

It’s easy for us to laugh at these in retrospect, but what kinds of things are we saying today? I’m particularly interested in critical or sceptical things we say about technology in education. I’m hearing things like

  • we have the intranet so we don’t need to ‘go out’
  • mobile phones have no educational use and should be banned
  • computer games are a waste of time and should be banned
  • social networking, like Facebook, is a waste of time and has no educational value
  • I do all my professional reading in peer-reviewed journals; why would I want to read blogs?
  • Twitter is used by people to say superficial and unnecessary things

When we say these things we are making a major mistake, and that mistake is based on the fact that we are thinking in terms of our world, not the world of  our students, and definitely not the world of the future. Currently in education there is a significant pull away from Web 2.0 technologies. We can’t stop these things by banning them or criticizing them. We can try to understand what draws our students into these applications. What motivates them to create online games, get involved in Second Life, join Flickr groups, write blogs – become engrossed in things outside of school in a way we didn’t think was possible in school. I think that we, as educators, should seriously think about what kind of world our students will be living in once they leave school. Whatever the answer to that is, it won’t be our world.

We should be interested in what young people are doing outside of school because it may help us understand how to engage them at school.

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11 Comments

Filed under 21st century learning, Education, humour, networking, technology, Web 2.0

11 responses to “Everything is amazing, nobody is happy

  1. Opposition to Web 2.0 technologies isn’t limited to schools; many corporations hold the same point of view. They think it is a waste of time, and they avoid using one of the most powerful tools out there for building relationships.

    Yes, teachers should be using these tools. If you don’t know Paul Bogush, you should check out his blog. He’s a very creative veteran teacher using Web 2.0 with his students on a regular basis.

    Also, I’m a dad of primary school age kids. My 7 y/o daughter blogs with me because her school doesn’t do this stuff. My 5 y/o boy has been begging me to blog with him too and we’ll probably start this summer.

    Keep exploring. You are thinking about stuff that should be thought about.

  2. Whoops, I didn’t code my daughter’s blog properly & the link doesn’t work. Her blog is at http://sciencegirlem.edublogs.org

  3. Thanks for the comment, Bill. I’ve checked out your blog, Paul’s blog, and your daughter’s blog. Although they’re all good, your daughter’s blog wins hands down! Very impressive hailstones.

  4. steveshann

    The challenge, I reckon, is bringing the two worlds together more. As you say so clearly, we adults are foolish to turn our backs on what stirs the young; and at the same time the young need our guidance and experience. It’s not a matter of us joining their socially networked worlds, or of them leaving their worlds and joining what the adult world sees as worthwhile, but of creating a space where both intersect. I think you’re so right, Tanya, to be such an ongoing advocate of a meeting space.

    • Thanks for your comment, Steve. Actually, some of our networked worlds are ahead of young people’s networked worlds. They naturally interact on Facebook (which used to be considered for ‘oldies’ not long ago, when young people preferred MySpace) and chat, but there are things like Diigo or Delicious networks, Twitter, and nings which are yet to be appreciated by young people. Twitter is the most difficult to get into, don’t you think? It took me quite a while to build a network that is meaningful.

  5. Hi Tania your post reminded me of a toe to toe argument I had with an educational administrator at my school a number of years ago over whether it was worth gettting the Internet connected into every computer in the computer lab or just have 1 dial up connection. His argument was that the Internet would never be really relevant to education!!! I have never argued anything so passionately in my life! I think I probably nearly lost my job that day :-) however I won the argument we got the Internet and within weeks it was being used flat out all the time!! Having vision and the willingness to step out your comfort zone is so important!

    • Yes, I’ve wondered a couple of times lately if I’d lose my job. Not yet, but I may have made some enemies. I think it’s worth fighting for, and maybe changing jobs if people are totally against it. Thanks for your comment, Lisa.

  6. Tania,

    I love this video! I have used it in PD and everyone responds well to it. It’s a wonderful reminder of just how astounding technology is and how easily we take stuff for granted.

    Like you, I also wrote a piece about this video: http://contemporarylearning.globalteacher.org.au/2009/05/06/everything-is-amazing/ Great minds, huh?

    Cheers, Paul

    BTW: You probably saw this, but just in case you didn’t Alec Couros has assembled a brilliant collection of vids at http://educationaltechnology.ca/couros/1480 ‘Everything is Amazinf’is at the top of his list!

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