Friday, March 13, 2009

Reel to Reel

Sometimes I wonder what I'd do if something happened to my laptop. But then I know the answer. I'd get another...quickly. While it burns me that it has become such a big part of my life, I know that social change is inevitable and that technology is a huge part of that equation.
We were warned early on during the last quarter of the 20th century. We knew that computers would impact everything we would do from going to the bank to sending mail; from reading books to paying bills. Going into education, even back then, we knew that the film projector, the record player, and the typewriter were only momentary. When I observe one of my student teachers today, everything emanates from the laptop. All video material is inserted and on DVD. Sound bytes, overhead visual aids, grades, attendance, comes from the little white techno-giant consuming less than one square foot. A few schools have and use dry erase boards, and fewer still use chalkboards. I still say black boards, and while I don't miss the chalk dust (dustless chalk wasn't really dustless) I do miss writing on the board. It's still so useful. Even in my 45 min. stint the other day, I found myself looking over my shoulder, checking for board space, and feeling at a loss for very little.
I know the increased use of technology is wonderful and I wouldn't trade it, ever, there are some things that are vastly overrated. PowerPoint continues to disappoint. There is something intrinsically nonhuman about it. It often sacrifices colorful graphics for substance and that's a very dangerous thing. Images flying at you from all angles and directions have to add up to something. They have to say something. Often they don't.
For some reason, butcher paper and classrooms are still doing well together. We seem to like the notion of colorful scrawling on cumbersome slices of moveable paper. Maybe it gives us a feeling of accomplishment. But butcher paper posters are ephemeral. They disappear after residing in corners or being stepped on once too many times.
A final thought: If you can remember when having a film in class was a big thing, you might appreciate this. Sure, the projector was often too loud, the film spliced too many times so that jerky effect with everything from sound out of sync to instant endings for some scenes, but a movie was not an everyday occurrence, and certainly no something easily obtainable.
Today, the impact of showing a film can be minimal. Black and white is no longer viewed as an art form, it's a disappointment.
Times change. People change. Even computers change...rapidly.

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