21st Century Kid

Technology: Past And Present Tense

Last week, Mickey started her second year of high school, which got me thinking: what is the biggest difference between my high school experience and Mickey’s high school experience? The biggest thing I could think of was technology. When I was in high school, computer usage within school was absolutely minimal because technology was was just budding. Most people had only one computer in their house, wireless Internet was still a rumor, rich kids had cellphones that were too big for normal sized pockets and all of the teachers had computers the size of small refrigerators that they used to make worksheets. That was technology when I was in high school.

But now? Everyone has their own computer, wireless Internet is required for you to breath, cellphones are now equipped with cameras, Internet, games and music and teachers have computers the size of small refrigerators that they use to make worksheets. Although I am unsure of the last detail, I had to ask Mickey about this in light of her asking me to proof an essay she had to write about Ender’s Game.

“Question for you: how is it having computers and Internet in school? I read your paper but couldn’t you just read Wikipedia instead of the whole book to do this assignment?” I asked, interrupting her GChat “Busy” sign.

“Ummmm…” she starts, “We rarely get to use them, so it’s really not even like computers are in school.”

“Wait: you don’t get to use computers in school? EXPLAIN!” I demand, clarifying, “Internet wasn’t around in my day! How do they, like, make sure kids are not cheating all the time? I feel like school would be too easy…”

“Well, first, we have like 20 to 25 computers in our Media Center and an AV lab.” she states, “And, um, I’m not sure how they handle cheating online… teachers just have to keep a really close eye on us?”

Well, that isn’t a clear answer about cheating. I assume teachers just function the same way they did when we used CliffsNotes books for help. CliffsNotes books: ha!

“Well, how do they handle personal phones, laptops, etc. students may have – can you guys bring that stuff to school?” I ask.

“No, we can’t. We can only use computers that the school has to do like SAT or EOCT test prep exercises,” she says.

That seems like such a silly waste of technology at everyone’s disposal. But I guess they have no money because the government isn’t giving them any money for computers?

Mickey adds: “Oh: my school also has carts of laptops that have WiFi so, if we have to do something in class or if the Media Center is full, there are laptops we can use.”

WTF? What a detail to leave out! Laptops??? Even if they are clunky, old laptops, that is still remarkable! I don’t even think I ever used a laptop until I won one in a contest Freshman year in college!

“Oh, really? That’s nice,” I tell her, “But, like, you could bring your own laptop to school if you were working on a project, right?”

“Nope. You’d have to use the ones in the Media Center, unless a teacher gives you a Technology Pass, which they rarely give out.”

“WTF. Then, like, can you have an iPod in school?? That’s not a computer!” I say.

“Well, music is a distraction… but you can get a Tech Pass if you’re doing a dance piece and you need your iPod for the dance.”

“Sheesh. You need to learn magic and make the teachers all blind so you can bring your iPod to school… or do more dances.”

“I agree,” she says.

This sounds insane to me: you can’t bring any of your devices…at all?? But I mean, CD players were not allowed in my school. And as cell phones began to pop up, those were not allowed either. I suppose not being able to bring an iPod to school is okay because it’s like bringing a CD to school for a project. If I were in High School now, every project – including essays – would need music so I could always have my music. How does one live in 2011 without your entire music collection on you at all times?!

“This feels like a lot of discrimination against people who want to use technology. But I guess I’m just thinking about how in college you could have whatever technology you wanted, whenever you wanted,” I say. “It’s like ‘Adult School’, I suppose: you have all the responsibility to do and have what you want but you still have to make grades.”

“That would be so nice if we could have our computers and stuff. I mean, I’m in a college prep school so I should be able to follow college’s electronics policy.”

I can concur with her. However, being an adult and working in environments where “legal fairness” is an issue, I suppose issues would erupt if Mickey could bring our Father’s laptop to school because not everyone is afforded the technology. That is a good rule: not letting little privileged kids go to school with Apple stores in their pockets to breeze through assignments is a good thing, considering other kids without technological luxuries would not be able to compete with them. The rule seems to be an equalizer. A point for you, school systems.

“What’s the worst part about having technology in school?” I ask.

“Well, I mean, I have more work. Like, I have play rehearsals, extracurriculars and AP homework, which isn’t the most wonderful mix in the world,” she says.

“Bleh,” I spit, “How do you cope?”

“I don’t sleep as much when I have rehearsals and get home at about 8pm and usually I have to stay up to finish my homework. One time I didn’t go to sleep until 4am… I had to do an online test and it was 40 questions long. I was borderline failing the class and the test counted as an actual test. It was really going to boost my grade and since I could take it as much as I wanted, I took the test almost nine times until I got a perfect score.”

“Sheesh. If that doesn’t sound like training for college then I don’t know what is. That sounds just like college to me. How many times does that happen?”

“Like, twice a semester,” she Internet laughs. “I guess I’m prepared for college then!”

“And, you’re young. At my age, if I had to stay up until 4am, I would literally die. Like, literally D-I-E.”

“If it wasn’t for weekends, I would die too. I tend to hibernate during the weekend.”

“How late do you sleep in?”

“I sleep in until noon or 1pm-ish, but I can sleep in until 5pm.”

“Oh my God: that sounds awful.”

“Mom tends to wake me up if I sleep in so extremely late,” she Internet laughs. “Well, I gotta go to rehearsal.”

“What? You’re not home for the night??” It is 6pm her time.

“Heck no!” she says, Internet laughing: “I’ve already had two rehearsals already today. I told you I was busy!”

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