Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Unintended Consequences

I came across an interesting article in my twitter feed this morning. The NY Times had a story about the growing digital divide in the US.

The digital divide used to mean that poor kids didn't have access to the same technology as their wealthier peers. While that gap has been narrowed, it does still exist. With the cost of technology coming down all the time, one can assume that gap may one day be nonexistent.

The 21st century digital divide isn't about access to technology, it's about how much time is being wasted using technology. The story chronicles how kids of all socioeconomic classes are wasting time every day watching shows, playing video games, and hanging out on facebook. Without going back to check the specific numbers, kids whose parents didn't graduate college spend 11.5 hours a day, A DAY!, using technology to entertain themselves, while kids whose parents did graduate from college only, ONLY!, spend 10 hours a day.

Pardon me while I hide my kids' ipods.

Now don't get me wrong. Computers and such are great. But as a senior researcher at Microsoft admits in the article, we have failed to account for how computers are actually used. Kids aren't spending 11.5 hours a day honing their math and reading skills. They're simulating war and butchering the English language on social media, and other fun stuff of course.

The use of technology in education is pervasive and unquestioned. School districts spend a ton of money on technology, and while I don't have a problem with it per se, I do sometimes wonder if all that money is being well spent. The ways things are going, it won't be long before every kid gets a lap top on the first day of school. Technology, the savior of the American public school system. What do people think kids are going to do with these free lap tops? Their homework? That's cute.

Not gonna happen my friends.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Say It Ain't So

I knew I wanted to take a break from blogging after the A-Z Challenge, but I didn't realize it would be so long. As if the end of the school year isn't busy enough, I decided to check out some opportunities at other schools here in town. A couple things fell through, but there's a gig I'm hoping works out. I'll know more soon, and I'm sure there'll be a whole work post when the dust settles.

What I really want to talk about today is much less important, but sad nonetheless. After seven years Kristin Wiig is leaving Saturday Night Live. Her last show was last Saturday, and it was one helluva send-off. Mick Jagger was the host and the musical guest, and he was great in both roles. Wiig played a prominent role in the show of course, and her final farewell at the very end of the show was surprisingly emotional. I got a little verklempt. Meg and I watched the show again Thursday, and it occurred to me that Wiig is probably my favorite SNL cast memember of all-time. A thought like that usually leads to list-making in my head. And since it's Friday, and I haven't done a Fast Five in a while, here's a Fast Five of my favorite SNLers:

5) John Belushi: I was just a kid when Belushi was in his heyday, but my parents loved him, and that rubbed off on me. I was the kind of kid who wanted to get what the adults were laughing about. As I got older and saw reruns, my appreciation for Belushi's humor grew.

4) Eddie Murphy: I was a teenager when Murphy blew up. I loved Gumby, Mr. Robinson, James Brown, and Buckwheat. It's hard to believe the guy who was so funny back then is now a shell of his former self.

3) Martin Short: Everyone remembers Ed Grimley of course, but for me, Short's best character was the lawyer Nathan Thurm. I remember seeing Thurm for the first time with my mom, and she was in tears.

2) Phil Hartman: His fellow cast members considered him the glue that held the show together. His Clinton impersonation was brilliant. I still crack up just thinking about Hartman's Clinton in the McDonald's. I also love Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer- Meg and I still quote him to this day.

1) Kristin Wiig: Wiig may have had the most recurring characters in SNL history. My two favorites were Penelope, the ultimate one-upper, and Judy Grimes, the nervous travel agent who's always kidding. I'm really going to miss Wiig, hopefully she'll keep us laughing at the movies. Bridesmaids II anyone? 

Who are your favorite Saturday Night Live alumni?      

Monday, May 7, 2012

A-Z Reflections

This was my second A-Z Challenge, and once again, I quite enjoyed myself. It does take over the month, but the life a middle school teacher can be pretty draining come April, and the Challenge is a nice diversion from the craziness.

I found a lot of great writers during last year's Challenge, and it was fun to see what they came up with this time around. I found more great writers this year, and I look forward to reading more from them now that they aren't bound by the alphabet.

There was no way I was going to make it to all the participating blogs. My goal was to hit at least 5 blogs a day, and if anything, I exceeded that goal. When picking blogs to visit, I went with titles that caught my attention. In my experience, if the title hooks me, the blog itself usually does too. I didn't follow every blog I visited, and I wonder if that's bad etiquette. Not that I'll change my ways if it is, but still, I wonder.

There were a lot more people involved in the Challenge this year, but I think I actually got less comments. Half the comments were my responses on a lot of posts, and even those numbers didn't match last year. I did have a lot more page views, but not the jump in comments and followers you'd expect with increased traffic. I'm not in it for statistics, but let's be honest, we all get a kick out of more comments and followers.

I do have one suggestion. I don't know how feasible it is, but I would like to see a best-of kind of thing. People could nominate specific posts for each letter, and a compilation of sorts could be created. Maybe it could even be made into an ebook. I think we'd all buy that, wouldn't we? We could nominate blogs for overall excellence, give people who are nailing this thing some kind of recognition.

I mean, Inger at Desert Canyon Living may have single-handedly increased tourism to Sweden with a month of beautiful posts about her homeland. And if Sweden is too far, after reading Julie's posts at What Else Is Possible?, you just might want to head on over to Cincinnati some time. My man David over at Brits in the USA had a musical theme going on, and he perfectly captured how music creates memories in our lives. I got to see Great Britain through L.G. Smith's eyes at Bards and Prophets, and Cathy at life on the muskoka river cracked me up all month. This is just to name a few, but the point is, a systematic way to acknowledge excellence during the Challenge might be a way to take things to the next level. Or maybe it's just me. It often is.

This is getting a bit long, so let me just say, I was happy to see the Challenge come to end, but I know by next April I'll be ready to go.