When was the last time you rented a video cassette?

…composed a hand-written letter?

…created a mix-tape for a friend or beloved one?

The Shelf-Life of a Gadget Is Not Much Longer Than A Milk Carton’s

Doing research for this article I found that a digital camera which my parents had given me as a graduation gift back in 2001 is now part of a list titled “10 Obsolete Gadgets That Made Great Gifts Back In 2000”.

Okay, I admit, that makes me feel nostalgic.

I still have that camera. But do I use it? Not really.

Nowadays, the quickest fix to a photo is a phone. (I’m trying to imagine explaining this to my great-grandfather..A tele-phone? Taking photo-graphs?. Oh boy…)

If you have a smartphone you can even publish your photo directly after hitting the shutter, always maintaining a fresh supply of baby-photos for the Social Network of your choice.

My old bulky digital camera looks pretty embarrassing next to that, doesn’t it?

But guess what, your iPad, Kindle, Macbook and Nook is going down the same path. (There, I said it. You can stop reading this blog now.)

What is marketed as the coolest thing today will become a reason for awkward stares, tomorrow.

One of Intel’s spokespeople said at the SEMICON West conference this week in San Francisco:

“The lines between a netbook, laptop and tablet are disappearing faster than designers today realise. It’s going to be very difficult to see where one device goes and the next one takes off,”

Putting on our history-goggles it’s not hard to see that, even.

It happened before, didn’t it? Walkmans, Discmans, …LASER-discs?

So why are we falling for the same trick again and again…forking out wads of money for overpriced technologies that become obsolete faster than can we complete our installments?

Happiness-Buttons And Cleaning Robots… And Where’s My Jetpack?

Maybe the assumption that by improving technology we can automagically improve our lives down to the tiniest detail of our day-to-day existence is only a remnant of retro-future visions filled with cleaning robots, push-button happiness devices, conveyor belt sidewalks and flying cars!

But…

If technology could transform human existence into pure bliss, it had plenty of time to do so, didn’t it?

(I’ve been waiting for flying cars, robotic butlers and jetpacks from the moment I tumbled out of my mother’s womb! To no avail…)

So far, the improvements technology has brought us are extremely two-sided which is best illustrated by looking at productivity:

We have more tools to be creative and productive than ever before in history.

But the amount of hours daily wasted with watching Funny Cat videos or checking your Facebook is astronomical!

In other words: Technology is great. But it’s also distracting!

Gagdet-Centric Education Is Like Drinking Out Of An Upturned Glass

In my “industry” – online learning – which is not an industry at all – (Someone show me the smokestacks of education! Where are the greasy gears and steam-engines of the knowledge factories?) – the gadget craze seems to be particularly well-developed.

Any given day, I find another “game-changing” technology which is destined to “disrupt education”. Armed to the teeth with features, brimming with promises of a “revolutionary way to learn.”

This goes from interactive vocabulary drilling applications to 360° web-cams that let you broadcast a classroom to remote students and have them “turn” whichever way the like.

All those things are cool. They aren’t a problem, really.

But also they aren’t a solution.

A solution to what?

Improving The Diagnosis

In the last ten years working with students and teachers both on and offline I didn’t see a great lack of knowledge (if there was one, it could easily be fixed). Neither did I see a lack of tools and technologies (if there was one tech & tools could mostly be added easily).

Instead, the real lack was a communicational one.

That means: Communication gaps between teachers and students foremost. But even further, dis-communication between teaching colleagues, among the students and of course miscommunication with parents and family at home.

In my experience, if there is no understanding between people it is difficult if not outright impossible to impart new information or improve the general organisation of the educational endeavour.

In the same way that technology doesn’t improve marriages but puts additional pressure on them (Her FarmVille and his MafiaWars don’t mix!) technology in itself won’t improve relationships between learners and educators.

Give a good communicator tools and he will use them to communicate well.

Give a bad communicator the same tools and he will use them to mis-communicate, only louder!

img: CC by calonda