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Death by Technology Entitlement?

Death by PresentationMy son will be six next month. As we wind down our Christmas preparations and figure out how to explain the Santa thing (with our being on the opposite coast on Christmas Day), I keep reminding myself not to overdo it. Yes, Christmas is a special time of the year, but just because we have enough money to buy several gifts, that doesn’t mean we have to do it. (Bear with me, I promise that I have a point here.)

I keep telling my husband that we need to make sure our son doesn’t become spoiled and end up with an over-inflated sense of entitlement. My husband used to take our son with him any time he went to a store, and of course, Cameron would always come home with something: chips, candy, a little toy of some kind. I kept warning him that this was going to get out of hand. I ended up entering every store explaining to my son that he wasn’t going to be getting anything while we were there. He was fine with me, but it wasn’t long before he more or less demanded my husband buy him something in a shop once. When they got home, hubby informed me that I had been right and that the spoiling was coming to an end. We were finally of one mind that just because we could, that didn’t mean we had to. The bigger picture always had to be seen with the overall outcome in mind.

It’s kind of the same with technology. (See, I told you this was going somewhere!) It seems like every day I hear about more new tools, apps, and ideas that I should be considering. It’s gotten to where I have had to take a hiatus from so many of these things until I have more time in my life to deal with them. Someone told me that Remember the Milk would change my life. I set it up once and forgot to ever remember it again. I have the free version of TripIt on my iPhone. I’ve sent a couple of itineraries to it and then forgot I had it until a few days before my trip to San Diego earlier this month, when the app was kind enough to speak up on its own behalf and remind me that it existed.

Should I feel guilty that I am my school’s technology teacher, and yet I use a handwritten list when I go to the supermarket? There are probably eight different ways I could use my iPhone to help me when I go shopping. But I just can’t be bothered. So as I work with my students, I preach the same message I try to practice at home: yes, there are a hundred bells and whistles you could be playing with . . . but I just want you to create an effective product.

We’ve all heard of Death by PowerPoint. Maybe you’ve read Presentation Zen. I have the special challenge of requiring both content and process, since the tools ARE my content standards, for the most part. I teach my younger students how to change fonts and colors, add sounds and animation – and then I forbid them, as older students, from using most of the features they’ve learned in actual products that will be used to convey content in their other classes. Kids have a tendency to go overboard, playing with gadgets and features, making something overloaded and painful to look at – because they’re kids, of course – instead of just focusing on the message. That’s why they need adults to guide them in sticking to their purpose without going gaga over all the fancy junk they are tempted to throw in.

So, if you or your students are feeling like kids in a candy store when using technology, remember this: you’ll have to visit the dentist some time. How painful do you want that visit to be? It’s better to start with your content, make decisions about how you want to convey it, and then see if there are any “extras” that can help you do the job even better. I’ll have to remember to lecture the kids on this next time they start working on a presentation by just looking for pictures.

Image from Flickr user HikingArtist.com, some rights reserved, Creative Commons.

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