Notes on IT

What are the benefits and costs of the information technology that with ever greater speed has become part of our life at home and at work? Which way does the balance lean? Surely, most of us would struggle if, say, web access were denied to us. How many of us have thrown away or contributed our large dictionaries, encyclopedias, rhyming dictionaries, telephone directories, and much more. Is having buds or BlackBerries in our ears most of the day all positive? What’s the balance from having web access almost all of the time with smart phones and pads? Information technology will bring us more and more benefits. Below are some recent comments on the IT revolution. Reader comments always welcome.

♦”Technology is moving so quickly, and in so many directions, that it becomes challenging to even pay attention—we are victims of ‘next new thing’ fatigue. Yet technology advancement continues to drive economic growth and, in some cases, unleash disruptive change. Economically disruptive technologies—like the semiconductor microchip, the Internet, or steam power in the Industrial Revolution—transform the way we live and work, enable new business models, and provide an opening for new players to upset the established order.” (McKinsey Global Institute, Disruptive Technologies, 2013)

♦”If I could, I would repeal the Internet. It is the technological marvel of the age, but it is not—as most people imagine—a symbol of progress. Just the opposite. We would be better off without it.” (Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post, 30 June 2013)

♦”I find myself nodding my head. There is new evidence, every day, of the mixed blessings delivered by the Internet. Just to pick one example from current headlines: The vast advances in government surveillance capability that we’ve all been wringing our hands about lately are directly attributable to the fact that our lives are now inextricably lived online. … Maybe Edward Snowden’s greatest contribution to society will end up being the way in which his leaks crystallized our previously vague sense that something was awry, that there was a real price to pay for the wondrous capabilities of our ‘Star Trek’ communicators.” (Andrew Leonard, Salon, 5 July 2013)

♦”When students are using technology as a tool or a support for communicating with others, they are in an active role rather than the passive role of recipient of information transmitted by a teacher, textbook, or broadcast. The student is actively making choices about how to generate, obtain, manipulate, or display information. Technology use allows many more students to be actively thinking about information, making choices, and executing skills than is typical in teacher-led lessons. Moreover, when technology is used as a tool to support students in performing authentic tasks, the students are in the position of defining their goals, making design decisions, and evaluating their progress. The teacher’s role changes as well. The teacher is no longer the center of attention as the dispenser of information, but rather plays the role of facilitator, setting project goals and providing guidelines and resources, moving from student to student or group to group, providing suggestions and support for student activity. As students work on their technology-supported products, the teacher rotates through the room, looking over shoulders, asking about the reasons for various design choices, and suggesting resources that might be used.” (

♦”Advances in technology have always transformed the way people are educated. From the abacus that made teaching math easier millennia ago, to the word processor that changed the way research papers are written and presented, humanity’s technological progress has impacted education. … Technology is transforming education today, and it will continue to do so tomorrow. Most of these changes are positive, and the wise use of technological advances will improve education for some time to come.” (Jeff Dunn, Edudemic, 11 January 2012)

♦”Computers and cyborgs aren’t about to render the American worker obsolete. But they’re tilting the nation’s economy more and more in favor of the rich and away from the poor and the middle class, new economic research contends. … Despite rising fears of technology displacing huge swaths of the workforce, there remain huge classes of jobs that robots (and low-wage foreign workers) still can’t replace in the United States, and won’t replace any time soon. To land the best of those jobs, workers need sophisticated vocabularies, advanced problem-solving abilities and other high-value skills that the U.S. economy does a good job of bestowing on young people from wealthy families—but can’t seem to deliver to poor and middle-class kids.” (Jim Tankersley, Washington Post, 13 July 2013)

Readers’ thoughts?

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