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The Big Lie ...

July 27, 2016

 

No, this is not about politics. This is about technology. I have said many times I have a love-hate relationship with technology. I love the fact that it connects me to friends all over the world and lets me at least be an observer, if not a participant, in their lives.

 

However, and this is the lie, it does not, as promised, make my life easier. It never really has ... I remember 25+ years ago, first trying to print labels using the computer. "Wow! imagine doing that?!" Well after several hours, not kidding, of trying to get the printer to work, the template to line up, the labels to be in the right position on the sheet of labels, I realized that if I had access to a typewriter, I could have knocked out the labels I needed in about 10 minutes. Oh sure, they have fixed that problem, sort of, in the intervening 25 years. There are templates now and software for making labels, and as long as you put the sheet of lables in the printer right side up, you can print your labels. But what if you only need one or two labels? You waste an entire sheet of labels to print those two. If I had a typewriter in my office, I could still do it faster.

 

This rant was actually inspired by my visit to my doctor for my annual physical. He spent most of the time he was in the office with me typing into the computer. He said that all this new technology has made his job more difficult, more time consuming and disconnected him from patients. 

 

Similarly, we use an electronic Blackboard for our classes at Temple. And because young people eschew using paper for anything, they can submit their assignments as electronic documents. I can grade them "on line" ... wonderful, right? Well, one or two page paper, turned in on paper, that I could grade with my red pen in about 15 seconds, now takes about 2-3 minutes. Gotta open the document, open the rubric, open the feedback window. If I want to comment gotta go click the comment button which I first have to find because it has probably scrolled off the top of the screen, click it, then scroll back to whatever I wanted to comment on if I can find it. When you multiply that process by 140 student submissions ... what used to take me about 40 minutes ... now takes me at least 4 hours. Yeah. That really improves the quality of my life.

 

And just when you think you've figured out how the system works, where to finds various functions, and how to use the system effectively, there are the upgrades ... Why? Because the technologists can. Not because they make things any easier. They just make them different. Now you have to retrain yourself on how to use things. Most of the time I have found that the upgrades remove the features I relied on so I have to figure out a whole new way to do things.

 

And when something goes awry ... it's always "just a glitch" in the system. Like the "glitch" in the new system that enrolled random students into my Blackboard course who weren't registered for the course. When the "support" people fixed the problem, I found that all of my students had been de-enrolled which led to an avalanche of student e-mails asking what happened? Yes, that makes my life easier. And ... everybody knows that if you are having a problem, you are never able to reproduce it in front of a technician.

 

And then there are "smart" phone. Well, if my phone is so smart, why did it think I was in Newfoundland two weeks ago? And why, when I try to check the weather, does it give me the temperatures for Key Largo? Maybe it just wants to retire to Florida.

 

 

That's why I like mechanical things. They do what they are advertised to do ... and if they break, frequently you can actually fix them.

 

And to upgrade? Well, I like the example of my kitchen sink sprayer ... the lever that turned on the water broke. I went to the local hardware store ( areal, old time hardware store) and bought a new nozzle ... stainless steel instead of black plastic. A real upgrade!

 

I unscrewed the broken nozzle. Screwed on the new one, and guess what? It worked ... Just like the old one, I didn't have to retrain myself. And, it looked a lot  better. ​​

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