• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Sunday, May 15, 2011

ESSAY: Issues of Technology

In 2001 I took a test to prove I can read and write English in a coherent literate way to allow me to work in the schools or take college level classes.  The test consisted of a few questions regarding grammar, some questions regarding several written passages I was required to read (on a computer), and writing an essay (from a selection of random topics) of at least one page in less than 90 minutes that would ideally have 5 or 6 paragraphs.  I asked and was given permission to write it on paper. I was required to write it and submit it as written without making a rough draft or outline prior to composing it.  I scored as high as was possible to score on the test.

The testing center mailed a copy of the essay to me and suggested I keep it for my personal records.  I found that copy this past week. The topic I picked was Issues of Technology: A Changing World. An interesting aside is that the lab technician had to show me how to use the computer in the testing center.  I was not familiar with Word. We used Corel Word Perfect at home (a much nicer program I must state) and I avoided computer use altogether if possible.

Only 10 years have passed. For 5 of those years I worked as a tutor for students age 12 - 18 in English, Math and Business.  The teacher in the Business lab liked how I worked with a student that was a Senior (in her English class) and requested me for her business classes.  I became proficient in computer use as I heard her courses for several years and assisted teenagers to understand and do what the teacher expected.

The following year I began supervising other tutors and programs full-time.  Part of my job included publishing a monthly newsletter on the web for the Grant program funding my position and as a piece of mail for parents. I was also expected to prepare organized, on line photo albums with appropriate titles and captions and administer several aspects of the program using the computer programs (and several more applications) I had learned from those business classes. Basically I used the computer and the Internet a lot.

In 10 years my world completely changed! In my essay I explained how my granny's world had changed.  She lived 105 years. I did not know her real age when I wrote about 1967, and felt at ease taking license with data to make it fit my topic. Remember this was written without a computer or any chance to edit or rework the order of sentences or paragraphs.
The essay follows:

One hundred years old - both my country and my great grandmother, who lived with our family.

Mary Bohne, born in England, crossed Canada the first time from east to west in a horse drawn buggy. I sat enthralled at her knee as she compared that first adventure with the wonder of jet airplane travel she experienced on her 100th birthday traveling west to east.  "Three hours not three months," I remember her exclaiming again and again.  "Three hours." What a marvelous change Canada had undergone between 1867 and 1967. Technology of many kinds had altered quality of life and manner of living dramatically and drastically.

Jet travel was not the only change my young mind accepted as normal. Although many remnants of the past clung like cobwebs to the corners our parents occupied in what was familiar to the new generation, little remained except stories and museum relegated icons for the 2nd generation following. I still knew, understood, and accepted as part of normalcy horses, telegraphs, outhouses and a much slower lifestyle of family cohesiveness largely uninterrupted by radio, TV, multiple automobiles, telephones and the ever expanding world modern telecommunications presents and unifies and/or divides. I remember when our family got hot and cold running water indoors, electricity, and our first radio. My parents marveled a very few years later when that radio was changed to a transistorized, battery operated, go anywhere set.  Life was indeed simple. Affording luxuries like a telephone, various electric appliances, and a car not exclusively for transport to work rapidly affected that very simplicity. The speed of the auto and the additional time freed by instant voice communication, and labor and time saving appliances such a refrigerators, electric stoves, and washers and dryers (along with a multitude of other helpful devices), allowed for time to do more things with the consequence of less overall time and more pressure to accomplish more things. Nonetheless we always somewhat feared and wondered at all the gadgets, buttons, planes, motors and wires.

Technology has also changed expectations and even the ability to accomplish many tasks as, for example, mechanical and other assistive devices permit smaller and weaker personnel to complete jobs previously only the strongest or tallest or fastest could perform. My children welcome a host of new devices; computers, color televisions, VCRs, compact discs, space shuttles and stations, and other technology I can only guess at.  Buttons and wires have no fear or wonder for them. When I have a question I ask my children for help. They often can answer or with their knowledge and my experience we can figure it out. Experience and wisdom of a  previous generation may often apply in surprising ways. At my parents insistence I learned to type - badly! I hated it. I was lousy at it.  It was, however, a skill a girl could utilize in a male dominated work world.  Now, typing is vital for computer use. Weekly I spend many hours coaxing my parents generation to try button pushing - to mimic us, their children and grandchildren. We need them.

My grandchildren are afraid of horses.  They see them so seldom and at such distances that a horse is a large and frightening animal. My grandmother could harness 8 Perchons to a double bladed plow at age 8. Each generation learns routines and familiar patterns. Amidst change there remain some constants. New technology currently is changing the buttons and wires: radio waves, fiber optics, lasers, genetics - the list can lengthen endlessly. We begin to speak to our machines and guide them by voice. We scan and transmit documents and digitize and create in the very air, and war in space.  I am in awe.  What has changed? My visiting grandchildren sit at my knee and think I am a bit funny - enthralled.

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