Saturday, January 12, 2008

Living with technology: Now and then

I wish I had a fancy picture like Clarence has in his post today about technology in the classroom. I also wish I could start to incorporate more meaningful use of a variety of gadgets and mobile computing devices into my everyday classroom. However, the life of a secondary school teacher is a little different and seeing as I teach 12 distinct classes and about 250 students I am not always able to develop the rapport that I idealise with all students.

The main aim of this blog post is to share some facts and figures. As a quick 'let's get into it after the break' lesson I asked some classes to blog about any interesting technologies they received or came into contact with over the holiday. I also asked them what technologies they owned and had at home.

A quick survey of 2 classes today revealed the following:

Date: January 10, 2008
Student level: Grade 6
Age: 10/11/12
Sample: 43 students
Location: Doha, Qatar
Nationality: 70-80% Arabic (majority Qatari), 20-30% mixed/international

Technology Ownership
(personal ownership, however gaming devices may be shared with family)
ITEM followed by Number
cell phone - 36
iPod - 31
PS2/PS3 - 29
laptop - 28
X-Box - 17
DS - 12
Nintendo wii - 10

I am assuming these are not normal figures for this age group. Qatar Academy is a private school and it is in one of the wealthiest countries in the world...therefore I suspect my perception that this is 'normal' is a little skewed. Or is it?

However I am intrigued by the number and diversity of 'gadgets' generally in the lives of these young people. Not only do they nearly all have phones, but an iPod is almost seen as essential, a laptop is not far behind, and then many of them had more than one gaming device in the house.

I am going to sound like some old-timer here but I feel it is important (when you get older) to reflect and share experiences from the past. So, let me tell you that when I was that age I desperately wanted a portable cassette recorder! We had a family 'stereo' on which to play the 45" and 33" records (LPs), and my father had a transistor radio (almost pocket size) to listen to the footie (Aussie rules football) on the weekend, but this relatively new gadget of a cassette player, in portable form with a recorder as well, was most exciting!

To get my much coveted technology I worked in my father's shop (a pet shop) and saved hard. To work 7 hours a week on a Friday night and Saturday morning...this was in the days when shops shut at 12pm Saturday's and did not open again until Monday morning!...I earned $5.00. I remember finally buying a Sony device, with a smart swinging chrome handle, not very big, but with a pop-open cassette drawer, built in speakers and play/record buttons at the top. I remember catching the train into the city (Melbourne) to pick it up (best prices were in the city larger shops...not that there were that many electrical shops around then). I remember walking in with my younger sisters in tow, choosing the model and the shop keeper saying something like 'Are you rich?' odd! I remember paying $120 Australian for this 'portable' cassette player/recorder that I then toted around everywhere with me.

I took that cassette recorder to 'Jazz in the Park' and recorded tapes full of wonderful Aussie jazz on sunny summer afternoons. I took it to my music lessons and recorded my teacher playing and explaining new ideas. I took it to my grandparents house and recorded interesting odds and ends such as my grandfather playing harmonica while I played along on glockenspiel. I was enthralled and excited by this technology that gave me access to recorded data that allowed me to interact in a more personal way with my world. I think I even have some of these original tapes somewhere.......

So, I do think young people today feel this same sort of excitement but in a more diversified way. They naturally adopt new gadgets without fear, without question and adapt them to their lifestyles. They use them to socialize, for entertainment and enjoyment, for creation and self-fulfillment, and for communication.

What do you think? What was your first piece of real technology that changed your life in some way?

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Bethany Smith said...

I would actually have to say it was my first computer - an Apple IIC. My Dad bought it when I was in 2nd grade and we were the first people on the block to get one. I played games like Oregon Trail, Number Crunchers and Lemonade Stand. I loved Print Shop and making cards and banners. I even enjoyed doing Basic programming and saying, "Hello World!" I still have that computer in my attic - just can't let go of it.

Julie Lindsay said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Bethany. Our first computer was an Apple LCII in 1993! 40/4: 40MB HD and 4MB RAM