Just when you thought we were making progress

by Mr. Sheehy

Sometimes I see things that worry me.

I receive all kinds of junk in my teacher box, and while most of it does not make it to the department, I usually get 30 seconds to glance at it before filing it in the hallway’s trash can. Today I glanced at something scary, something that seems like such a bad idea I’m surprised it’s being pitched: the Neo by AlphaSmart. In a changing world of web publishing, the selling points for the Neo includes this helpful feature: “No worries that your students are surfing the Web, playing online games, or sending instant messages.”  Oh, my – a product for those who fear the Internet but find it easier to read typed assignments than difficult handwriting. I don’t like to throw out negative contemplations on my blog, because I think I’m a positive thinker, but I can’t think of an upside to this technology. Why not go back to the old Commodore 64, and at least if our students are fooling around, we know it’s just that turtle thing that turns 90 degrees and then moves forwad a little bit if you type the commands specifically enough?

Yes, it’s “a fraction of the cost of traditional laptops,” but since it is a waste of money, I can’t consider the cost a plus.  I don’t doubt the intentions of the people at AlphaSmart and Renaissance – they must want to provide educational “solutions” in a world of tight budgets, but I am admittedly concerned that someone, somewhere, might buy these things, and then in a few years those teachers’ students will enter the world of information, and they’ll wonder why they had to use technology that is more outdated than their grandparents’ Apple IIe‘s (I don’t think they’ve got Oregon Trail on these Neo’s).

Lately, I have admittedly grown a bit tired of reading blogs only about technology, and I long for the conversation to shift, as Will Richardson hopes he sees it doing. I am searching for blogging conversations where educators discuss the stuff I really like to talk about – literatue, writing, and silly parts of life. I encourage my colleagues to blog out of selfishness – I want to hear them talk about the things we might talk about at lunch if we had more time and focus.

But the conversation cannot shift too much, because not enough people have heard the current one. If they had, then the Neo would be Gone-O.