Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “technology”

Blog Spotlight : Eagle-Eyed Editor


Here begins a series of spotlights about blogs I follow. Maybe you’ll become a follower too!

When I first began blogging about two years ago I noticed a trio of bloggers who often stopped by my posts and left chatty comment bits. Quite encouraging and fun, actually. Think about it–we tip tap out our words, launch them out, and hope to spark some kind of response. Often off-the-cuff comments lead into revelations and further discussions.

Eagle- Eyed Editor has always encouraged me to dig a bit deeper by providing both thought provoking, as well as, humorous posts. Recipient of Freshly Pressed. Twice.  Many of 3E’s posts concern the impact of social media. Try out this post.

I mentioned I would show the “Look Up” video to my students and pass on the response:

I decided not to show my freshmen the video since I didn’t think they would get or receive the message as well as my seniors; plus,  I was rather annoyed with my freshmen by the end of the year with their constant need to peek at their phones during class. Confiscating phones became a sideline to teaching at a point.  I should have asked for commission. Maybe that was their response: they have such an addiction to texting, snap chatting, and twittering that they can’t stop themselves even when the consequences are dear. In fact, some freshmen students are so addicted to their iDevices they can’t bear to be parted. This came to light when we were practicing our monthly required fire drill in May. We file out, I lock the door, we stand on the edge of the parking lot, wait for the all clear. Ten or fifteen minutes later, it’s a checklist item for admin. Purses, backpacks, coats, etc are all left behind. Not phones. “The room’s locked. We’ll be back in a couple of minutes.” A look of indecision and then a shake of the head, accompanied by clutching. “No, I must have my phone with me. I have to.” Is there a twelve step program for technology addiction?

Seniors were more blatant about their phone usage, but they were more compliant if I said “This is a no-device portion of class.” They understood time and place I blithely thought. Most of them used their phones and pads to actually look up meaningful additions to the learning process. Others didn’t. Really? Clash of Clans? From our saluatorian? Actually, I guess I was rather annoyed with my seniors by the end of the year as well. Perhaps this is why the “Look Up” video sparked the discussion that it did–they recognized the message because it was directed at many of them.

“Yet another example of how bad technology is for society,” one student stated, with thinly veiled sarcasm.

From across the room came the reply, “But if the technology weren’t there as a temptation people wouldn’t be tempted.

Across the room discussions rarely go well. Fortunately the bell rang, with the discussion still lingering as students trailed out, I would safely say there rang a truth some of my students were uncomfortable with: technology is an increasing demand on their lives, more than they care to admit.

So perhaps this generation, the one born with a device in one hand and a pacifier in the other, will swing the other way with their own children, like mine did concerning the tolerance of cigarettes and television, and decide “technology is detrimental to our well being.” I wonder will there be tech free zones established in the future? “No tech usage within 25 feet of building entrance.” “We’d like the tech-free section, please.” “I’ll have the tech-lite, please.”

Thanks again to Eagle Eyed Editor for providing blog posts which stimulate classroom discussions. I hope you will check out 3E’s blog–you won’t be disappointed.

Blue Skies,
C. Muse

ChromeCast Conclusions

Over the holidays, as I solicited advice on buying a new laptop, my tech progeny convinced me to buy a ChromeCast. I did. Since then I have come to the following concusions:

  • It’s a great value for the inexpensive purchase price.
  • It’s easy to set up and even easier to use.
  • It’s versatile in use, ranging from music to videos to film clips to entire movies.
  • It’s portable and travels well, meaning it has possibilities of being set up on other screens.

And the best part?

  • There are no additional costs involved.

The progeny originally used the argument of my movie passion to convince me to buy it. “No more running to the library or grocery store for a nightly flick!”
However, I did balk at the idea of re-upping with NetFlix. Not so much a bad experience, just one more monthly payment to keep track of. Instead, I signed up for the free monthly trial, did the trial period, and cancelled by the deadline. I won’t be signing up for NetFlix? Why? They don’t carry the movie selections I primarily enjoy–namely classics and the odd oldie. Netflix is fine for the current box office run, but I can live with my dollar specials available at the local grocers.
Instead of movies I’m primarily using ChromeCast for Pandora.
Right, I’m playing music on our TV. The sound system is better than my iPhone, it’s soothing to watch the little pictures float across my screen, it’s lovely background to reading, and it’s commercial free. No kidding. For some reason when Pandora is ChromeCasted no commercials pop up.
I have on occasion YouTubed with ChromeCast. It is possible to find full-length flicks on there, you just have to know what to look for and where to look.
All in all, it’s been the best present to myself that the whole family enjoys.
Anyone use ChromeCast beyond movies and music?

High Praise for Low Tech

Cover of "Six-Figure Freelancing"

Cover of Six-Figure Freelancing

Last month I had the pleasure of a lunch excursion of write-minded people with at least three different local writing groups being represented. Some of those at the table I knew and others I was glad to make acquaintance.  I hope we bump into each other while attending local and regional writer to-dos.

While it’s always a delight to mingle with other writers (because that gosh-it’s-lonely-in-the-garret thing does get tiresome after a time), it’s even more of a delight when the writerly get together involves eating and gnoshing with a known writer. In our case our writer-in-the-dining was Kelly James-Enger.

Kelly owns an impressive vita. A former lawyer, she’s also served a term as a contributing editor for Writer magazine, and has racked up some amazing credits such as:

  • written and published hundreds of articles appearing in over fifty national magazines
  • authored/coauthored/ghosted 12 books.
  • speaker at national writing conferences
  • blogger focusing on making money as a freelancer
  •  being a dedicated mother of two busy kids!

As much as I learned about the business side of writing from Kelly, my biggest take away was her lo tech savvy.

She and I share this nerdy joy of NEO. Not Matrix Neo, but the odd little wants-to-be-computer someday NEO. At first glance it resembles an overgrown calculator. At second glance it makes you wonder why a person would want to use it. At all.

Take a look at its amazing features:

  • no internet
  • no printer capability
  • no word processing
  • no large screen
  • no thumb drive save

I know–it’s a list of no nos. Why bother with such a low tech device?  That’s the beauty of it–it’s so low tech that it produces high results.  You know how easy it easy to fire up the laptop, iPad, MAC, whatever and go in with great intentions. Before long it’s rabbit trail time as social media is checked, updated, and read, meaningless research extranvagas commence, and general time wasting occurs.  The WWW really stands WhattaWastedWorktime. NEO won’t allow you to go there.  It can’t.

I first learned about NEO a few years ago when I offered to teach Creative Writing one semester. However,  computer labs at the school were not that readily available at that time.  I decided to get creative (desperation does this at times) so we could really get some writing done. By means of a grant I earned the use of a classroom set of NEOs. This proved to be a better solution than I initially thought. My students would practically squeal with delight when I announced “Grab your NEO.” Everyone had a dedicated NEO and they would merrily plunk away their stories and download them into my designated school folder on my laptop and I would print them later. I miss my NEO days. My former NEO students fondly reminisce about those days of low tech.

Unlike iPads and computer labs, there are no worries of diligently watching and waiting to sneak up on students sneaking in email messages, games, shopping, and stupid stuff.  NEO is happy to be low tech enough to simply take in words, m’am, just the words. It’s too humble to try and be pretentious.

So, after lunch I waited around by the fireplace lounge while I waited for the MEPA to arrive and whisk me away for some shopping. I happened upon Kelly who had also decided to take advantage of the quiet fireside setting and was diligently working on one of her many projects. She graciously allowed me to hang out with her and we had a great chat session about writing, being moms, and being busier than we know is better for us.  That’s when I noticed her NEO.  Expecting an iPad, or MAC, or even something really nifty because Kelly is after all, a writer who has made the magic six figure income, and would naturally use the best tech in her craft. Sha-zam was I shocked when I found a NEO propped up on her lap.  Even more amazing was her confession on how she  prefers her NEO for those times of serious writing. There is a lesson in this, I know there is.

Before you rush out to purchase your own NEO, I have to deliver the sad news that they are no longer going to be produced. Perhaps this is a rumor.  Perhaps I should check out Snopes and make sure.

At any rate, I recommend finding a NEO for those times when you need to just get the words down, when you simply need to focus. High tech has its place.  DO NOT even think about taking away my iPhone at this point. iPad maybe–but that’s another blog.

For now I’m all about  giving a High Five for the Low Tech NEO. I wonder if Kenau ever tried one out.

Rethinking Knowledge

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

Too Big To Know by David Weinberger certainly does give a person something to think about. If the book title doesn’t intrigue you, move on to the subtitle:

Rethinking Knowledge
Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts,
Experts Are Everywhere,
and the Smartest Person in the Room
Is the Room

 I think entire college course could be dedicated to the subtitle alone.

Speaking of colleges, specifically universities, it makes sense Weinberger is the person to write a book about how the Internet has impacted our knowledge since he is a Senior Researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for the Internet & Society.  He knows what he is talking about when it comes to the Internet and how it is shaping our thinking, and that’s what this book is all about: how  the Internet is reshaping our thinking.

From the inside book flap:

We used to know how to know.  We got our answers from books or experts.  We’d nail down the facts and move on.  But in the Internet age, knowledge has moved onto networks.  There’s more knowledge than ever, of course, but its different. (emphasis added)

It is different.  It’s instant.  And we all know from downing ramen, micro meals, and breakfast in a glass, that instant is not better–it’s quicker, yes, but overall it lacks something in the quality aspect of satisfaction.

Let’s wind up the Victrola, please….Back in my day (yada yada).  But it’s true, back in school, you know prior to the ’80s and desktop computers and Internet access, a student had to GO to the library and look up information in almanacs, encyclopedias, and in expert-crafted tomes of knowledge.  I don’t think our school library even owns an encyclopedia set anymore.  Librarian: Just go look it up on the computer.  In fact, I think the school library has become a computer lab adorned with fiction, since the non-fiction is ignored and passed over for the Internet click instead.

After reading Weinberger’s book I feel my long held opinion is validated: we are becoming stupider. I tell my students all the time how our brain is a muscle.  If we don’t exercise our muscles they atrophy.  I know my brain is getting flabby.  One example is my lack of data bank of memorized phone numbers.  Why should I when I can speed dial?  Yet, before I rant about the overkill of technology and how it is breeding a stupider instead of brainer society let me let Weinberger point out his thoughts:

page xii (even before he starts the book)
The Internet is an unedited mash of rumor, gossips, and lies.  It splinters our attention and spells the end of reflective, long-form thought…Everyone with any stupid idea has a megaphone as big as that of educated, trained people. We form “echo chambers” online and actually encounter fewer challenges to our thinking than we did during the broadcast era.  Google is degrading our memories.  Google is making us stupid.  The Internet loves fervid, cult-driven amateurs and drives professionals out of business.

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

Before we pack up our Macs, trade in our iPhones, and blast Microsoft and totally castigate technology, let’s step back, take a breath and rethink knowledge. Here is the big question: how much do we need to know?  This is what Weinberger explores throughout his book.

In Chapter Nine he brings up the million dollar question: Are the changes in knowledge good or bad?  I dunno–are they?  All I know is what I learned and most of my learning has come from reading, not from zipping and schlipping and sedgwaying my way across the knowledge-littered frontier of cyber space.  I feel drained and mentally fatigued after I have spent an hour kibitzing on the computer.  Kind of like eating a bag of Cheetos when I should have been eating a salad but didn’t want to take the time to create something nutritious.  The analogy tie is that although Cheetos could be considered food it doesn’t have a lasting effect when it comes to nourishment; it’s not at all like savoring a lovely garden salad laden with veggies and topped with sunflower seeds.  Seeking information via the Internet for me, most of the time, is eating a bag of Cheetos.  I keep eating, but I’m still hungry even after the bag is done.  Books are salad in that the bulk goes down and stays down and feeds the body (lettuce and pages–it works).

All I can say is the whole “Is the Internet enlivening or depriving our brains” question brings me back to the short story By the Waters of Babylon”  Do you know the passage I’m alluding to? The one where the protagonist looks around at the remains of the once great society and wonders, “Did they eat their knowledge too fast?”

It makes me wonder–are we eating our knowledge too fast?


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