The Missing Link

Thanks to Maurice for his comment yesterday and a link to his post “Tablets and Transforming Education-Much is Needed Before it Should Happen“.  He made reference to it as a result of my posting about “Useless Gadgets”.  It had me thinking about something that I don’t have an answer to and to me, that’s the missing link in a lot of things with technology integration.

Let’s roll back the clock.  I took Typing in Grade 9.  And, I mean Typing.  We had those education typewriters with the blank keys on the keyboard presumably to reduce the urge to look.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard the instructions “Hands on the home row, feet flat on the floor, eyes on your copy – Begin”.

In the fall of my Grade 9 year, I didn’t type all that well.  In fact, I believe that my first term report had a whopping 60% or something.  At my dad’s place of work, they were replacing manual typewriters with electric ones and he bought one of the castaways to put on my desk and practice to pick up my marks.  I actually did that (and the typewriter also substituted for a set of weights in my bedroom) and ended the year with marks in the 90s.  I’ve never looked back or regretted the time spent to learn that skill.

In Grade 10, I took a course called “Business Machines” which arguably was the best mathematics course I ever took.  We learned how to solve all sorts of business problems using calculating machines.  Productivity went through the roof when, as a right handed person, I learned to operate the machine with my left hand so that I could keep a pencil active in the right.

Both skills proved invaluable in programming.  I could type and calculate with the best of them although the numeric keypad was on the wrong side of the keyboard.  I was so happy to have these skills and they remain in use today on laptops like the one I’m keying on right now.

In his comment, Maurice talks about tablets becoming the “Swiss Army Knife” of devices.  Therein I think I’m having a gap imagining this.

It’s not that I don’t like my iPad.  It’s portable and is a great tool for a lot of things that I do…except for serious writing.  Yes, I really like the WordPress application and I have tapped out some posts on the glass screen.  I did a presentation once and part of their thanks ended up in a case with a bluetooth keyboard.  That’s certainly a better tool for my purposes and I’ll use that when I’m writing longer material but it’s still just a bit smaller than what I’m used to and editing and revising remains a challenge to me.  I’ve yet to get my hands on a Microsoft Surface.  Maybe my opinion would change.

But tablets have voice recognition.  Uh huh.  Captain Picard is the only one I know that could reliably get a computer to get his orders correct!  I know I can’t but I do know that I have a nasal voice.  But, voice recognition in a class of 30?

What about keyboarding then?  I know that we licensed a program and made it available everywhere, compulsory at Grade 4 and recommended for review at Grade 9.  It still is frustrating though, with my keyboarding abilities, to watch hunters and peckers fumble at a keyboard when a little practice and skill development would go a long way.

But kids won’t need to keyboard.  They have their phone and just need to tap their way to literacy.  I do have another problem seeing that happening and with suggestive spelling, I don’t know.

Back to the concept of tablet as “Swiss Army Knife”.  Yes, it’s powerful.  Yes, it’s an enabler for media creation.  Yes, it’s so good at the things that it does well.  But is it the powerful knife that’s described or is it just a tool in the knife that’s pulled out when the time is right.  At some times, are there are other, better, more appropriate tool?  Is the most powerful skill knowing which tool to use?

I’m also not so set in my ways to admit I’ve got it wrong if I’m missing seeing the link.  If I am, please let me know.  Ingrained skills are so hard to kick.

p.s. don’t look too closely – I still use two spaces after a period.  Learned that in Grade 9 too.

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OTR Links 11/18/2012

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.