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Things don’t replace things

December 1, 2010

The latest addition to my favorite blogs list is (David) Pogue’s Posts from the New York Times. Last week Pogue wrote an excellent little retrospective piece, Lessons Learned in 10 Years on the Tech Beat. Here’s my favorite quote:

Things don’t replace things; they just splinter

Sensationalist media outlets think we expect to hear that the newest device is immediately going to utterly replace all its predecessors. But think about it: did TV replace radio? Did DVDs eliminate movie theaters? Did Twitter replace email? Technologies are more likely to spread out than to move in sequence. Of course, some gadgets (like VCRs) gradually become obsolete, but it usually takes time. No reason for panic.

This is also true in the education market. How often have you heard that a new invention – like the clicker – is destined to revolutionize teaching? The truth is that most often faculty end up using the contraption to essentially do what they were already doing. The worst case is when a tool like PowerPoint is easy to use poorly. The best case is when technology helps make a good teaching idea easier to carry out, and leads to wide adoption of an effective practice. Electronic portfolios may become an example of this.

David Pogue’s piece is full of useful wisdom, like encouraging us to take technology hype with many grains of salt. For me, the last item on his list particularly hit home. If you have talked with me recently, you may have heard something like this:

Nobody can keep up.

Staying on top of new developments is an impossible task, even for those of us whose jobs are saturated with technology. Anyone who tells you he is up to date on everything is either deluding himself or prevaricating. I believe my best hope is to read, listen, and ask friends for help. In turn, I hope those of my readers who are at Notre Dame feel comfortable coming to me for help sifting through the techno-hype.

[Flickr Photo “Porcupine-Like Splinter” by Joel Penner]

One Comment leave one →
  1. Dann permalink
    December 2, 2010 5:32 am

    Thank you!

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