Friday, February 26, 2010

Va Va Voom!

I love the va va voom of technology. Go grease lightning! Ok, yeah, so it’s Friday, can you tell? Anyway, it really does make one exuberant to see the goodies coming our way at a breathtaking, breakneck pace. How can any English teacher not marvel, let alone salivate, at the prospect of so many shiny e-reader gadgets? Between the Kindle, Reader, Nook, and the highly anticipated iPad, the educational establishment better get ready for a serious paradigm shift away from traditional hardcover textbooks to epubs, or electronic publications.

Lockers, aside from those used for athletics, will likely become obsolete in the next ten to twenty years, as students will be able to carry everything they need for all their classes in a single multipurpose device. They won’t need pens, they won’t need pencils, they won’t need paper, they won’t, they won’t, they won’t… Teachers everywhere, breathe a sigh of relief, for all those trips to the locker will vanish, those whiny students who forgot this or forgot that will no longer have any ground for whining. Just kidding, that’s a pipedream. Students will, of course, forget their e-readers, then the whining will continue. Some things are inescapable and written into adolescent DNA. It was nice to dream though, wasn’t it?

E-readers will open up new vistas for the traditional mortar-and-brick institutions. Teachers and students will be able to: (a) oscillate back and forth between course materials from other classes with the swipe of a finger; (b) integrate technology and new media into their instruction and assignments; (c) continue discussions outside of the classroom in dynamic multimedia contexts; and (d) complete paperless assessments, thus casting those dreaded and hated scantrons into the dustbin of history; in the future, homework, projects, and papers will be uploaded and graded via newer and better software that will likely come with these new media applications within the e-reader hardware. The sky is the limit to how these instruments will alter the landscape of teaching in the future.

E-readers will not, however, be a cure-all to any of the typical student problems. In fact, they will probably just create or exacerbate current problems in the short term, as not everyone will be able to afford them. It will take a few years and government subsidies for every student to get an e-reader in his hand, but, trust me, it will happen– can anyone say, stimulus money? Title I/II funds? Another potential problem to consider is the multipurpose aspect of these devices. Can you imagine trying to teach students with iPads? Half the kids would be watching movies with the other half either listening to music or texting their friends in other classes in the middle of instruction. These companies are producing media consumption devices. The e-book is just one crumb on the media menu, and certainly one of the less savory ones to adolescents, to be selected and consumed at will. In summary, the e-readers are a veritable Pandora’s Box. They can be an extraordinary boon or a nuclear meltdown for teachers.

In the meantime, I love my B&N Nook. It is my constant companion on the bus. In fact, it is a she, and her name is Beatrice, after Dante’s muse. I cannot do justice describing the wonder it is to own a device that enables me to carry a whole library that I can read at will and which remembers where I left off when I last picked through it. For a person possessing a fickle, limited attention span, such as the one I sadly possess, Beatrice provides me a veritable play land, romping through old literary stomping grounds and discovering new haunts daily. I would be remiss without a quick H/T to my father-in-law, Eddie Krenson, who made this literary wonderland a magical reality for me.

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