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Oct 21 2013

When technology is not the problem

I tend to like much of the new technology, though some of it is quite gimmicky and appeals only to those who like technology for its own sake. I am usually slow to adopt them waiting until I am sure that I really need it. What really bothers me is when people think that technology will solve a problem that the lack of technology did not create.

What really bothers me is when people think that technology will solve a problem that the lack of technology did not create. Three areas stand out. One is in education where there has been a rush to spend huge amounts of money to provide technological gadgets (like iPads to all students) in the hope that this will motivate students to learn. I have had many years of working with teachers and studying what makes for good teaching and have come away convinced that a good teacher who works in an environment where they are respected as trained professionals can, with just paper and pencil and string and sticky tape, achieve much more than a poor teacher in a high-tech classroom.

The second is with public talks. Some people seem to think that a glitzy PowerPoint presentation will make up for the fact that they have nothing really new or useful to say or that they cannot say it coherently. It can often make the talk worse. As Edward Tufte said, “Power corrupts, PowerPoint corrupts absolutely”.

The third is with news. Having fancy newsrooms and the latest gadgetry cannot make up for the lack of good investigative journalism. In fact they work at cross-purposes. The more money spent on technology, the less there is to be spent of hiring quality journalists, a problem that also occurs in education. CNN is a good example of this where they spent much money and effort of things like holograms while their reporting has steadily declined.

Another more recent example of this is Fox News that has apparently transformed its newsroom into something out of a science fiction film but where their news coverage and judgment remains shallow.

The Daily Show and The Colbert Report had a ton of fun unloading on the new Fox newsroom.

(This clip aired on October 9, 2013. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post.)

(This clip aired on October 10.)

12 comments

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  1. 1
    coragyps

    “Some people seem to think that a glitzy PowerPoint presentation…..”

    A PowerPoint presentation when read word for word off the screen makes safety meeting and the like even better sleep aids than they were in the low-tech days of yore. Or maybe it’s just because the room is darker.

  2. 2
    Acolyte of Sagan

    One is in education where there has been a rush to spend huge amounts of money to provide technological gadgets (like iPads to all students…

    Because nothing is more sure to make the class concentrate than giving them the means to muck around on twittyfacetube whilst you’re trying to teach them something.

  3. 3
    A. Noyd

    Why the hell would people want to read news from Twitter on a TV screen hours or days later?

  4. 4
    left0ver1under

    I worked in a school which had screens and speakers. It worked because the students had no means of input, only the teachers did. The purpose was to make content more visible, easily changed, and provide audio or video, and it was good at doing that.

    But the most important part was still the classroom setting, the interaction with and feedback from teachers and practice between students. That’s where the learning comes from, the repetition and involvement. Having it on screen is as worthless as having it in books if students lack the knowledge or interest in comprehending or using the material.

    “Self teaching” rarely works. Most people aren’t driven enough to do it, or they lack enough starting knowledge to understand.

  5. 5
    khms

    As long as we are on the subject of glitzy useless tech …

    Can we please not have several videos on a page all set to auto-play?

    In fact, can we please not have any videos set to auto-play?

    “Self teaching” rarely works. Most people aren’t driven enough to do it, or they lack enough starting knowledge to understand.

    Really good teaching concentrates on giving students the interest in the subject that drives self teaching.

    Unfortunately, most teachers can’t deliver that level of teaching – especially with typical class sizes.

  6. 6
    Mano Singham

    Which posts on this site have videos that are on auto play?

  7. 7
    eidolon

    The two videos in this post auto start, at least on my machine.

    But – to the point about technology, I appreciated the shout out for the AAPT String and Sticky Tape publication. The idea that useful physics can be taught with a bare minimum of equipment helps link physics to the world students live in, not one of endless word problems.

  8. 8
    Mano Singham

    That is odd because autoplay is explicitly turned off. If you look at the source code, you will see that I chose embedding code in which “autoPlay=false”.

    Any tech experts out there to explain what is going on?

  9. 9
    Reginald Selkirk

    I experienced the same thing, when I clicked to this page from the FTB front page, both videos started autoplaying.

  10. 10
    Reginald Selkirk

    And when I just dropped that comment in the bin, the page refreshed and both videos auto-played again.

  11. 11
    Dunc

    Looks like “autoPlay=false” doesn’t actually do what you might expect it too…

    http://stackoverflow.com/questions/399370/flash-how-to-make-an-embedded-video-not-autoplay/4117651#4117651

    In short, it looks like you might not be able to control autoplay through the embed code, although there are a couple of possibilities suggested.

  12. 12
    trucreep

    Hahaha just want to say, I could NOT stop laughing when he showcased the “Information Sherpa”

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