Technology, and its use in schools

I am an avid user of technology, at work, and at play.  Actually, I use technology more at play than I do at work, but I do use it everywhere.  Of course, at work, I use a computer.  I make use of various applications at work, and in particular, the ability to have one calendar on my computer, phone and iPod is crucial for me in keeping organized. I am not an organized person by nature. I have had to learn how to become more organized.  Anyone of you reading this that has been in my office would surely gasp at my concept of organization, but trust me, this is better than it could be.  I am a JK-12 principal, and keeping things organized is essential…….it reduces unnecessary anxiety, and no one likes unnecessary anxiety.

However, at play……oh, at play, I love technology.  Just a few areas I like use technology:  photography, music and fitness.  Photography is impossible to do without technology, but I like it.  I like to store photos on my various cloud drives I have.  I like to photoshop a bit…not a lot, but a tweak here and a tweak there, a crop here, a crop there.  Music, my saving grace in life… one of my favourite releases.  I had MIDI music composing software years ago, it was Cakewalk.  I assume it still exits, but I no longer use it.  I loved it!  It was amazing.  It even made my poor timing fix itself!  Then I moved to a portable digital recorder, that could save my work to a CD….I actually posted a song to a free song hosting site on CBC.  It was short and shabby, but it was mine!  Well, it is mine, as it is still there.  Production values need work, as does almost every other part of the song, but damn it, I recorded a song and put it out there.  Lately, I have been looking at apps for my iPhone to attach my guitar, and presumably, my keyboard too, as well, but have yet to really look at them, but, man if, I do…watch out!  There could be more.  I have a million songs in my head, all floating around, with little structure or planning, but they are there.  My iPhone may help me bring them to light, and then you can all just cringe together!

It does not end there, though, as I use technology in different ways in music as well.  One more way I use technology is with my voice.  I am a late arrival at the vocal party.  I have been playing instruments for many years, but have only just recently, as in the last few years, tried to sing.  I am not very good, but I have learned a lot about myself.  This could also lead to a discussion about, yet again, engagement and ultimately the Growth Mindset as in Carole Dweck Mindset stuff, but I will save that for some other time.  I also use a harmony box when I sing.  Purists call it cheating, I call it making the audience wince less. All it does, for those of you who are unaware of it, is, allow me to simulate other singers harmonizing, but it is all my voice.  Now, having to listen to my 15 and 19 year old daughters’ music, and its proliferation of “autotune”, I think my crime is quite minuscule.  However, if that is cheating, so too is an effects pedal, and I have not heard very many people refer to Jimmy Hendrix as a cheater, so…..

However, I also use technology in my ever constant attempts to remain somewhat fit and healthy.  When I used to run a bit (I hated it), I tracked it on a spreadsheet and made cute little graphs for myself.   I also had a cheap heart rate monitor and I plotted heart rate, maximum, minimum, time in my zone, etc, etc. Then, a few years ago, I purchased a nice GPS unit.  When I would ski, or cycle, I would bring the GPS and then download the data into the GPS mapping unit on my computer and stare lovingly at where I had ventured.  I would even “open in google earth” and look at it with the satellite imagery.  It was fun, but not earth shaking.

Then, in my struggle a few years ago to have a more structured eating regimen, I discovered Myfitnesspal.  A simple App for my iPod/iPhone that tracked the calories I ate, and expended.  Neat charts and data too, lots of fun.  On the computer version, one can print out their diary and keep it.  I have done so for the last year and a bit.  I look back on it lovingly too, when I was in a good groove, and then skip right by the blank entries, I know are blank because I ate so much on those days, it was not worth putting in and making me look so bad.  However, it did help me.

Now, here we are in June 2014 and the integration and seamlessness is only increasing.  As of the early part of May, I downloaded Runtastic’s mountain biking app.  I am once again in love.  It is great.  It tracks my ride, gives me all sorts of data.  I even purchased the Pro version, and I do not often purchase anything!  It takes seamless up a step.  I synced it with the Myfitnesspal app and when I finish a bike ride, it then sends the calorie burning data to my app automatically.  Also, those of you who have the fortune/misfortune to follow me on Twitter, it also posts my rides to Twitter, including my big 0.8 K ride to work and home again.  And, to top it all off, for about $70, I purchased a new heart rate monitor, that works directly with the Runtastic app.  The only thing I am missing is the cadence tracker, but I am personally not that interested in my cadence.  To know my heart rate, as well as how far I have gone, how often, calories burned and many other things, is great for me.

Now, I just read this morning on some online paper, that Apple’s iOS8 operating system, may contain improved functions related to the synchronization of these many health and exercise apps, within the phone itself, I can see that perhaps I am riding a wave that is only going to be more interesting.

However, the long and short of all of this is certainly not to bore anyone with my interest in technology for music, photography and exercise (I did not even mention I bought a depth finder and plan to map my entire lake this summer….), but to make one, simple plain point.  I know what you are all thinking…..but it is coming now.

Technology for me is useful.  I made the point about the cadence for a particular reason.  I am not interested in my cadence on the bike.  The other data engages me more.  So, that technology, while just as interesting, using Bluetooth, etc, is of no use to me, whereas the other items are all very important to me.

Ultimately then, as we decide about technology for upcoming years: do we go with tablets, chromebooks, desktops, laptops or something else entirely, or all of the above in some measure, then I ask you:  What are we using the technology for?  If we are not using it for something, if our kids are not using it for something related to their learning, why do we have it?  It has to be a seamless part of what we are doing; otherwise you cannot convince me to spend a penny of my ever shrinking budget on it.

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