Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - March 14, 2014

Talk to me

People who eagerly jump on board the technology bandwagon and always need the "latest-greatest" items in that area are called "early adopters." I'm definitely not one of those.

While I'm a bit ahead of the dinosaurs at the end of the technology parade, I do feel them nipping at my heels at times. Still, I use a computer at work every day and a netbook at home just as often. I'm rarely separated from my smartphone. It took a little coaxing from husband Art for me to set aside my film camera a number of years ago, but now I wouldn't part with any of these things.

Still, when I watch what technology has done to the two areas I know the best - journalism and education - it takes my breath away. In creating a newspaper or magazine, we used to manually create the text using a typewriter and cut and paste the results into final form which was then photographed to make a plate to print the end result. Today, all those steps are done on a computer and the results are frequently sent by electronic mail to a printer located miles away. Even the university newspaper is printed 60 miles from Manhattan in Salina, Kan.

But I'm more amazed at seeing how daughters Katie and Mariya use technology - and how effortlessly they do so.

Katie, who is a junior in music at Kansas State University, now only rarely has to leave her own apartment to complete auditions. She uses her cell phone to video herself singing and then e-mails the result or posts it online. She can accompany herself on the piano, either playing at the time, or having the piano record her keystrokes and then having it play it back as she sings.

When one of her professors was going to be gone on a class day, he told the students they could either come to class and watch a video he had for them or go online and watch it at home.

In her education technology class, she is required to "pin" items she found on the Internet onto her Pintrest education board. Her professor can access her students' boards to make certain they are researching items related to their intended profession. Among items Katie "pinned" were: "the top 20 education sites every teacher should know"; "nine, five-minute activities that will save your lesson" and "managing your classroom."

When a decision has to be made regarding an upcoming performance or rehearsal or some other matter related to the nine-person a capella group she is in, all members are messaged on their cell phones by the manager and each can then respond from wherever they are at that moment.

Oldest daughter Mariya is a teacher at K-State. In her classes, she frequently uses picture and sound presentations she has created using programs such as PowerPoint and Prezi. She has students submit their assignments online. She then edits them and then sends them back. She also uploads readings and digital versions of movies for her Fiction into Film class. Students often leave comments or have conversations outside of class time using message boards. She also uses K-State Online (KSOL) to record grades, letting the program figure grade percentages. Like her mother, she also corresponds with students daily via email.

Technology was a lifesaver a couple of years ago when bad weather delayed our return from Chicago near the end of the fall semester. I phoned our department secretary to give my students' final papers to Mariya, who then scanned them and emailed the scans to me. I graded them sitting in my hotel room and then submitted the students' grades using my netbook since all my gradebook information was online. When Costa Ricans Carla and Johnny were on campus in January, they often spoke to their colleagues back home and to me on their smartphones via an Internet program that bypassed the usual problems using cell phones in a foreign country.

But all this new stuff does occasionally throw me for a loop. One such occasion happened just last week. Now I've often heard someone say something along the line of, "If these walls could talk, what stories they could tell." Well, for us women, our purses probably accompany us to more places than anything else, so what tales they could tell if they could speak.

For a moment last week, I thought that time had arrived. I was driving along, minding my own business, when suddenly I heard my purse speaking.

"You have a message from ... Ma- rye-ya. New message: 'Okey dokey!'"

Now when you are riding alone and suddenly you hear a voice right beside you, let's just say that it was good I didn't have an accident of some nature.

Then I laughed. I realized I had somehow engaged the "hands-off" option on my smartphone and, rather than the usual "whistle" notification that tells me I have a message, a synthesized voice not only alerted me, but read the message to me.

So while I may not be far ahead of those technology dinosaurs, I think I'm maintaining a comfortable distance.

Comments? [email protected].
Earlier columns from 2014 may be found at: 2014 Index.
Links to previous years are on the home page: Home