Device-free family gatherings – Less Screen Time

Let’s talk about eating.  I know it’s one of my favorite pastimes and I hope it is yours as well.  But it also seems like it is one of the most likely times to be upended with too much technology!  Digital obsessions seem to be creeping into one of those few times during the day when the family is gathered together and truly have the opportunity to talk with one another.  

Learning to live without the technology may be one of the biggest challenges facing parents today as they interact with their children.  While FaceTime and Skype are truly a boon to connecting with family and friends when we are not able to be with them in person, we should become even more appreciative of the times we have to be with them in real time.  We might also be surprised about how much more we can really learn about each other when we are not distracted by our devices.  Could even be fun?

Hope you get to enjoy your family time together over these summer weeks ahead (see P.S. below).

Ray Myers


TechtoExpress will be taking a few weeks vacation, returning on Friday, August 7.   If you missed some of the earlier posts this year, or are just interested in taking a second look, please visit the archives link (begins in March this year).   Any comments or thoughts still welcome during this vacation time.  Enjoy!

It’s Greek to Me – Brain Drain in Greece

Unfortunately, it’s not that hard to understand.  As the European Union tries to come to grips with the economic realities of the current fiscal crisis in Greece, many young Greeks have decided to leave their homeland and resettle in more prosperous countries where they can pursue their professional and economic dreams.  For those interested in the promises of work in the technology field, America becomes the destination of choice.  Technology may be the lifeline to their futures, wherever they may eventually call home.

Many younger Greeks feel betrayed by an older generation that over-borrowed and failed to support responsible tax collection policies.  Now Greek families may very well experience the exodus of their more talented youth to foreign shores.  Perhaps this is only inevitable and represents an economic reality that has historically driven many other European immigrants to American shores.  But this is the twenty-first century and we have surely learned from our economic mistakes of the past?

Perhaps this crisis will somehow be averted through the collective efforts of the European nations committed to saving one of their own?  At this time, however, that seems to be the only hope or option that Greece may have.

Ray Myers

The Library Connection – Digital with Consequences?

I know I have written about the public library’s future before, but it seems as if the battle lines are more clearly being drawn.  It may not be so much about how you access information but, I believe, what kind of reader or learner you may be.  One county library director in the U.S. sees the libraries of today as being in the “connection” business: connecting you to everything you need.  Very helpful, I’m sure, but this sounds more like a retail approach to library services.  Whatever happened to “browsing?”

Not so much time for that anymore, I guess.  And the availability of going to the library online may be very appealing to all those who like to go shopping online anyway.   Maybe it’s all inevitable.  We can all be connected to only those things we want and/or think we need.  The library seems to be moving to better customer service, thanks to our faster, streamlined digital word.

How about reading or learning about things that take us to a different “place,” or helps us experience something that we have discovered or found on our own!  It may not always be about being connected to only those things we find entertaining?

Ray Myers

Tech Poor Substitute for Personal Interaction

Now who doesn’t know that?  But unfortunately many parents seem to feel that unrestricted or unlimited computer/internet time is part of a child’s life in the digital world.  It doesn’t have to be that way say many leading clinical psychologists.  It is interesting and good to be curious about other people, to learn how to listen.  Technology is a poor substitute for personal interaction.

Perhaps most discouragingly, heavy use of electronic media can have significant negative effects on children’s behavior, health and school performance.  This “overexposure,” particularly with regard to simulated violence, common in many popular video games, can result in children acting more violently themselves and less likely to behave emphatically in a more positive way.

Less screen time, more interpersonal activity with peers, family, care-givers seems to be the best antidote.  This does not mean we have to take away all the digital devices and toys.  We should just ensure that spending time with peers and caring adults does not suffer.

Ray Myers

Search Around the Clock – Big Data, Big Brother?

So maybe this is what Big Data is all about.  Now we know how much time people spend online and when they are doing it!  Somehow it reminds me of Big Brother?  If we are the “searchers” we may unwittingly become the objects of someone else’s searches?  And to that end we already have some international comparisons of what people might be doing over their lunch times.

Not so much in the United States, but some patterns appear in other countries.  In Britain, people catch up on the news.  In Japan, there is a noticeable rise in travel planning.  In Belgium, it’s anything shopping related.  Just a word of warning that may be obvious wherever you may be, you will probably be more prone to lapses and forgetfulness when you are searching online after midnight.  Maybe it’s time to go to bed?

I am not one to hand out unsolicited advice, but I can’t pass this one up.  Go to bed, get some rest.  As someone remarked to me, they somehow felt that the computer was “sucking their life away.”  And besides that, Big Brother/Big Data may be watching.

Ray Myers

EdTech Europe: What Works Offline Doesn’t Work Online

This may be an obvious characterization of what many EdTech practitioners already know within their own communities.  But there seem to be some key areas that need to be addressed in order to remedy some of the online practices that are not “living up” to their expectations.  In today’s blog I would just like to enumerate some of them, and invite any comment or feedback that could enhance the conversation.  So in the true spirit of America’s Indepemdence Day, Fourth of July, please take a look.

*  Need for a pedagogical shift in the move towards online learning, rather than simply transferring existing teaching models online.

*  Take an active approach to facilitating peer-to-peer engagement, rather than relying on video lectures alone (human interaction is important; advice to MOOC providers).

*  In-classroom education technologies must suit the needs of not only students but teachers.

At the EdTech Europe conference, Jim Deters (CEO, Galvanize), added that  ” we are now in technology ubiquity.”  So what would you advise?  Any comments, perspectives, advice welcome.  I will follow up on this next week.  Thank you.

Ray Myers

Maybe EdTech Will Have to Wait in Chicago?

I guess this is a good news, bad news blog.  First the good news, I think, in terms of how teachers in Chicago can select preferred software from a secure portal site.  Perhaps the only qualification about this would be that individual teachers may not find their favorite software there, but presumably they will find something there that will work for them and their students.  A very positive district-wide strategy that is to be commended, but unfortunately there appear to be some nagging concerns that might overshadow this good news.

There was a recent student data privacy breach, and there continues to be a financial crisis over the funding of the teachers’ pension plans.  While all of this may have very little or nothing to do with educational technology, the citizens of Chicago may begin to focus more on district budget priorities and student privacy protections than on the benefits of a software catalog for teachers.  Edtech purchases may become less of a priority.

Let’s hope for the best here in terms of funding for the instructional tools that students and teachers need.  In this data breach, transportation vendors received students’ personally identifiable information. This may have nothing to do with the educational practices within the schools, but we must be vigilant in securing students’ privacy in all school services.

Ray Myers