Saturday, February 13, 2010

Wifi on a Bus

An email went around yesterday and everyone loved the concept in the hyperlink from the New York Times. I even liked it at first. It is about a school district and bus 92. Bus 92 is a wifi enabled bus that allows students to access the Internet from every seat. Like I said, many of the colleagues, friends and acquaintances I respect thought the concept in this article was cool, and so did I. Something came over me. I felt the need to offer a different perspective.

I am going to offer a different perspective. I love the fact that when I go to the Pediatrician's office and they have signs on the TVs that say "do not touch" as Barney or Elmo blare away. What's funny is the American Pediatric Society says that television for children under two years of age is not, lack of a better term, "a good idea." The problem is Doctors and Nurses in the Pediatrician's Office do not want kids crying away and they want them to be distracted.

My wife and I still limit our children to 1 hour a day of "screen time." This is becoming trickier with my son getting into James Patterson books on an iPod Touch. Although the one hour a day of screen time rule is not hard and fast, we try our best to stick to it.

I get a bit concerned when we have a society when children can't easily entertain themselves without an electronic device. It may be hypocritical for me to be saying this, especially for anyone who knows me. I tend to use my phone for emailing, book reading, fact checking and other forms of communication. Even I have suggested lessons on iPods for bus trips for students.

More and more the environments for face to face conversations are diminishing. This may be good or bad. I, just two weeks ago, told a group of 60 college students at an event called Backpack to Briefcase that students sitting in their seats, in the near future, may be interviewing for jobs in environments like Second Life. In an age where libraries, music stores, books stores, movie theaters and other things become, in a way, things of the past. So too are the face to face conversation places and the opportunities for this spontaneous conversations to happen. Time, technology and inappropriate uses of technology are huge contributors to the demise of the face to face spontaneous conversations. Yesterday, I saw two young ladies discuss whether Dracula was immortal. They compared and contrasted Dracula from Bram Stoker's time to what they have read in modern times with the Twilight series. I had to say to myself "I get it. This is what the library is for" and the stereotype of the "shushing" long skirted librarian and the chain around her glasses is antithetical to what a real "learning space" like a library should be.

Kids should not hit each other or make fun of people on the bus. I was both a culprit and a victim of this type of behavior. I also believe that a technology bus should not be so infiltrated with technology that meaningful "Dracula" type conversations don't happen.

The 21st Century skill of communication is critical and it is the number one way we tell people we are credible, ethical and competent. We primarily do this by articulating it orally. Also, our speech, the content of what we say and how we convey our ideas is the number one way we "promote our brand." I see younger generations losing some of their abilities to be articulate and I am sure not having a great way to assess oral presentation or communication on a state examination may be a contributing factor.

I just hope for a day that it becomes clear that the goal of technology is upper level thought and not placating the masses.