Technology is fantastic only when two things simultaneously occur:
It is used correctly.
It works correctly.
I have no scientific data to back me up on this, but I would hazard a guess that that there is failure in the first item more often than the latter. When taking into consideration how many times folks have to call a help desk or tech support for their “damn machines,” my current working hypothesis is that people fail to use technology correctly about 90% of the time.
I am hardly a “techie,” but I do realize that for every website, app, and piece of hardware that we see and use, there is a slew of technological “stuff” that goes on behind the scenes. I’ve heard the nasty campfire horror stories about what happens after something as seemingly innocuous as a semicolon is omitted from a critical line of code. My question is simply this: Why are the people who are charged with designing and forging the hardware and software into reality rewarded for their time and efforts by having us, the users, mishandle the very products they poured their time and efforts into delivering? Yes, the very products that we desire–nay, DEMAND–are constantly mistreated, abused, and/or not utilized in such a way as to reach their full potential.
It’s like having a programmable coffee pot and never programming it so that you have freshly brewed java upon waking. It’s like being in possession of a DVR to record all of your favorite programs and then turning around and complaining about all the commercials. It’s like owning a Smartphone and only using it to (GASP) CALL PEOPLE. You may as well just throw it against the wall until it is just so much shrapnel and use a freakin’ land line.
Since we just had an election, I am going to talk about just one group of users–the school districts. No doubt that numerous school districts around the country asked the people residing in their districts for a tax increase for “upgraded technology.”
Where I live, we were not asked for a tax increase this time around, but we have been hit up for increased cash flow in the past. Our school district constantly boasts about the fact that they use technology in the classroom. To the point of annoyance and nausea. And it’s true–the Tweedles’ homework these days is mostly done “online.” When I walked into various classrooms on Teacher Conference Day, a Smartboard was present in most of the rooms. On the school’s website, you can do everything from checking your student’s grades or the event calendar, to putting money into their lunch account. Each Friday, the principal of the school sends out a mass email, detailing events of the past week and informing parents of upcoming important dates.
This is all well and good. Theoretically, anyway. This is where my hypothesis comes into play–that people fail to use technology correctly about 90% of the time. And while I lack the actual data because I have no control group or experimental model to actually confirm or deny my guess, what I do have is scads of anecdotal evidence, which, face it, is so much more fun than simple, raw data.
Anecdotal Tale #1–The Tale of the Abused Smartboard
When Tweedledee was in 6th grade, she marveled over the fact that her math teacher’s Smartboard remained intact, despite the fact that he repeatedly pounded on it with his fist. I didn’t think too much of it, other than surmising that if he was that angry about math, he might want to consider teaching a different subject. (For example, creative writing can be rather forgiving.) Two years later, Tweedledum has the same math teacher. Tweedledum has informed me that said teacher, “beats the crap out of his Smartboard all the time.” Now I am thinking that eventually, this teacher’s Smartboard is going to break under the strain of his physical abuse. As a taxpayer, I don’t especially want to be on the hook for “upgraded technology,” if all it is going to be used for is a high-tech punching bag for an angry math instructor.
Anecdotal Tale #2–You Don’t Really Want Us To Come to The Football Game, Do You?
The last Friday update I received from the middle school principal arrived in my inbox at 1:53 PM. On this email, it informed us parents that the high school football team was taking part in a Big Important Game on Saturday–you know the kind, where School Spirit and Team Pride is on the line, so please, please, please come out and support our Fabulous Football Team!! The kicker was that activity passes would not be honored, and that tickets could only be purchased up through the final lunch period on Friday. The final lunch period on Friday ended at roughly 12:30 in the afternoon. D’oh!!
Anecdotal Tale#3–A Mind Is A Terrible Thing to Clutter With Too Much Information
In that same Friday update, the parents of the school district were informed that all of the students were offered a sample of butternut squash. This information came complete with a statistical breakdown of how many students in each grade had not tried it before, how many liked it, and how many did not like it. What would be more useful as a parent is knowing how many students are offered veggies in their school-purchased lunch, and then throw it away in the garbage at the end of the lunch period. According to the Tweedles and their various friends who visit, the amount of food that is wasted could conceivably go a long way towards feeding a third world country. But that is a subject for another post.
Here I could put Anecdotal Tales #4, 5, 6, and upwards of infinity, but you get the point. I’m thinking that they really shouldn’t waste their breaths telling me how technologically advanced they are when they do not even utilize the most basic of technology in the manner for which it was purposed. They’d be better off going back to mimeograph machines and sniffing the ink.