What's next - an interview

Tim and I were contacted to do an interview with Diana Drake from NJBIZ, New Jersey's statewide business weekly. Tim had earlier worked on their NJ Next Stop web site. That site informs high school students, career counselors, high school teachers, and parents about key industries and occupations in the state and the skills and education requirements.

Diane is the editor of NJ Next, a magazine that goes to NJ high school students each fall and prepares them for life after high school. She was looking for some "technology insights" from us about technology tools students need to stay connected in the real world. She imagined this could run the gamut from basics like computers, printers and cell phones to - well, who knows what.

Much of what I would say is covered on this blog though we don't see the Serendipity35 audience as being students. Some of her questions were back story (Why do you consider yourself tech-savvy? Where did you go to high school and college?) Some, though background in nature, are actually tough to answer if you overthink things (as I often do). How would you answer, "How did you end up in your current job?"

There were a few that I thought I'd post here with the hope that some readers might respond with your own answers.

  1. From your observations, how connected to technology are kids these days?
  2. If you had to come up with a list of tech-things that a student who really wants to stay connected shouldn't be without, what would they be and why?
  3. Any brands that absolutely stand out above the rest?
  4. Is the iPhone really that magical?
  5. What do you see as the biggest myth these days about technology?
  6. Does it really help to keep us connected?
  7. Are kids too engaged with technology that it becomes a distraction...or does it make their lives better?

Here are some quick takes on my answers.

  1. Kids are totally connected and what I call "tech savvy." Unfortunately, many of their skills do not translate into useful tech skills in the classroom.
  2. a) Smart phones (more of Tim's expertise) which many students are using like a computer. It doesn't have to be an iPhone - of course, that's like telling a kid it doesn't have to be an iPod - there are mp3 players that are just as good & cheaper, but iPods are like designer jeans in the 1970's - the cool factor is just too important to kids. b) laptop - you still need a computer and kids all want laptops  c) a printer/scanner combo is still necessary as long as teachers want paper turned in and a scanner offers lots of possibilities  d) external memory - kids need to get in the habit of doing backups & a good-sized flashdrive (for under $50 you can get 8GB of portable storage) for the sneakernet  e) is a big, basically free suggestion - cloud computing, online services & open source tools. Using online services to create, store and save files. From Flickr for your photos to Google Documents for your writing and presentations as I have suggested in earlier posts. Finally, I'd suggest that games can be a way to connect and excellent teaching tools, but currently students are more likely to be working in a virtual world like Second Life or playing with Spore in their bedroom than in a classroom. That needs to change. Kids connect with other kids through these games and virtual worlds, learn new tech skills and explore their interests collaboratively with like-minded people
  3. I'm not big on brand recommendations.
  4. Not to me. Maybe Brother will post on his response on that one.
  5. It is a myth that kids are somehow being born with tech knowledge, or that they will learn the skills we want them to know on their own. Kids often learn to read before school, but they are exposed to material and learn reading skills in school that you would not pick up just by being a reader.
  6. Does it really help to keep us connected? The fear that computers and the Net would isolate us seems unfounded, as with all the earlier fears at the advent of film, telephones, television and computers. Used well and with some guidance, the technology connects in many more ways than earlier technologies. The Net is becoming our phone system, library, classroom, television and movie theater.
  7. Are kids too engaged with technology that it becomes a distraction...or does it make their lives better? It is more positive than negative. I heard a librarian say that searching on the Internet is like taking a sip of water from a fire hose. There is so much, too much really, out there that students need lots of help in knowing how to find valid information. This is an old classroom activity. It is just that we are used to doing it using books, newspapers and the library.

What would you add?


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