I suppose a lot of people would refer to me as a “dinosaur.” Maybe because I don’t have an address or whatever it is on something called Facebook. Unlike our current president I don’t have a Twitter account, and unlike most of the folks who may read this, I don’t have a smartphone.
I do admit to having a cell phone. It receives calls and I can make calls on it. I think I can take a picture with it, even though I don’t think I ever did. I cannot get directions to someplace I want to go, or order a pizza, get the 2017-18 Steelers schedule, or look up the cast of the old show “Gunsmoke.”
People can leave me a voicemail and even a text message, but if they do, they take the chance that I may not hear it or read it. I check voicemails about once a month and text messages if I have the phone with me and get stuck in traffic for about an hour.
And I don’t have any kind of mobile tablet or anything like an “iPad.” When I go to a meeting where I want to remember the details, I carry a yellow writing pad and a pen. If I know I will be somewhere I am likely to be bored I will take along a paperback book. If I want to drive somewhere I have never been before I will get a map or use the Garmin my son bought us a few years ago.
Does all that make me a “dinosaur?” Probably. Am I worried about not keeping up with all the latest gizmos and technology?
Not in the least.
It is not that I am against technology or progress. Shoot, I think cordless phones, cell phones, CD players, FM radios and even laptop computers are wonderful.
As a matter of fact, I use my wife’s laptop to write these columns and the articles I write to cover meetings. I’ve been doing those for about 25 years, a lot longer than I have had a computer of any kind. When I first started writing things for this newspaper I typed them out on a typewriter and took the paper copy to the office. Now I write them on a screen, print a copy to proofread and then send it via email to the newspaper.
Are today’s articles and columns any better than the ones I typed on paper and carried to the office? Probably not. Is it easier than it used to be? Probably yes.
My point is that the advances made by today’s technology make life easier, but by the same token easier is not necessarily better.
Back in “the day” when I tried to teach high school age students things like literature and some skills in writing I was bombarded by the temptations to constantly update my methods and use more “modern” technology.
For about the last 10 or 15 years my main focus was teaching writing. Not “handwriting,” or the “Peterson” system, but more of what we used to call composition. And my experience was that as the use of technological gizmos increased thinking and creativity decreased. I liked to devote at least one day a week to writing in class.
And on the other days, at least one or two more were devoted to looking at those words, phrases and sentences to see why they were good or how they could be improved. That meant a lot of reading, underling, circling and planning.
It was what I, Ann and a lot of other people of our generation called “teaching.”
Easy? No. Time consuming? Yes, very time consuming. And it was not solely the domain of English teachers. I can easily recall a certain chemistry teacher who always had a pile of lab reports in his hand, reading them not only for the lab procedures they described but also for the way they were written. An incomplete sentence, a misspelled word would get circled and somewhere a message like “sloppy writing shows sloppy thinking” would get written on the report.
In my own case and that of a lot of teachers of my generation, but especially for me, the surrender to technology ended with an overhead projector.
I especially liked to teach writing with the overhead for a couple of reasons.
First, I could write on a screen all could see without turning my back on the class. With 16-year-olds, that was important.
Also, I could transfer a handwritten essay a student had written in class to a transparency that all could read in less than a day. What students wrote in class on Monday would be used as Tuesday’s lesson on revising and editing. That was important.
It was also important that the students could see how something they had written was important enough to be the subject of a lesson. Far from being embarrassed that everyone in class was going to read what they had written, the kids were proud that what they had written was good enough to be “chewed up” in class.
And it was all done without the technology we were being pressured into using. All it took was a pencil, a sheet of paper, an overhead projector and the creativity to turn thoughts into words.
No 21st technology needed.