Monday, August 10, 2009

I'm ok with "I don't know."

What's the future going to look like? How long before this technology becomes obsolete? There are so many social media sites; how do I pick the ones that are right for me?

"I don't know."

That's the answer I usually give when folks ask me those questions. And being someone who works with lots of different groups, I get those questions a lot.

And I just answer: "I don't know."

And I'm thrilled that I'm able to do so.

See, in years past, we tried to answer those questions. We tried to predict the future (remember laserdisc?). We tried to tell how long it would be before things went obsolete (I bought a new cellphone a few months ago that's practically gone). We stressed over what software was right for us and we listened to what the companies told us and we threw our money at them hoping that something would stick.

What we wound up with was a world few of us could have imagined twenty years ago.

Twenty years ago, you would have been considered mad if you had told people that one day they'd have to carry telephones around in their pockets and that those telephones would double as cameras and GPS devices. Twenty years ago, the idea of purchasing all of your books and music online would have seemed insane. Twenty years ago, the idea of free instant communication with no long-distance charges via videophone would have made our mothers laugh out loud until they gagged.

Fact is, we have no idea what the future holds.

So stop worrying about it from the hardware point of view. Unless you are a stockholder, it really doesn't matter whether your PC says 'HP' or 'Dell' on the side. Be willing to mix it up a bit: the 20 inch flatscreen sitting abandoned at the used computer store will work just fine and you'll save yourself a couple hundred bucks. Don't worry about whether your iPod has enough storage (it does); there are actual real things in life to worry about.

Stop worrying about it from a software point of view. Yes, you just wasted money on a set of Microsoft Office licenses. At least now, you know you can get the same stuff for free using Open Office and Google Apps. You'll remember that next time. Don't worry that you are running the older version of Photoshop in your classroom; it'll work just fine and your students will put together the best looking yearbook to date (because the majority of apps they'll use in it's construction and layout are free Web 2.0 tools available online).

Stop worrying about what Web 2.0 tools to use. Will Twitter exist in five years? Will Facebook? The only correct answer is: "Who knows?" We are living in a period of transition from the analog world to the digital world. In the public mind it began with CDs and laserprinters. This Cloud Computing / Social Technology / Paperless thing is just the final push.

Really, we should be asking a different question. Rather than dwell on "what is going to go obsolete?" we should be asking ourselves: "what's gonna stick around?"

That's the real question. And I do have some suggestions there.

The Cloud is going to stick around. One of the things that's changing rapidly is that in our classroom purchasing decisions, we have the opportunity to get beyond local storage issues and instead leverage the Cloud to more effectively use our tech dollars.

Mobile is going to stick around. What form this takes is up for debate, but connected computing on-the-go will for our children be a given.

Most importantly, the concept of immediate global networking is going to stick around. In fact, I'd wager a bet that when the historians look back on this age the one thing they'll say about it is that it marked the beginning of a new form of global communication. And that form of communication has the potential to break down all of the hierarchies that for so long we've presumed cast in bronze. Think I'm out to lunch on this one? Then ask someone who used to work for a newspaper what they think about blogs.

Predictions of the future -- of the particularities of the future -- are always hazy at best. As to what it'll "look like" all I say is "I don't know." As to what tech we'll be using, again: "I don't know." As to what's currently the best for you personally: "I don't know. You've got to experiment and figure that one out on your own."

But as to the basic concepts that will form the future, I say that the Cloud, Mobility, and the Network are the key components. Where exactly that takes technology is anyone's guess. But, in my mind, it's better to keep an eye on the future than it is to worry constantly about the everyday ups-and-downs of the present.

And that's why I'm ok with "I don't know".

1 comment:

  1. I think the key is moving away from teaching the technology to teaching with it: implicit in an enviroment that transcends from one device to another is the importance of being able to adapt.


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