Still, I Love Technology

"Is technology beneficial to mankind, or harmful?"  I contemplated the essay prompt along with my students this morning.  But while they dutifully composed thesis statements and combed their lists of source summaries for supporting examples, I was thinking about the task ahead and how annoyed I knew I would be before it was through.

Last semester I designed a WebQuest in an effort to make Billy Budd a little more appetizing to modern-day high school minds.  I included references to four written works (poems, a novel and the Bible) and four films that referenced the sea, in hopes that the students could draw some parallels and connections to the leaden prose of Melville.  I purposely chose movies I thought would be interesting to them (read: attractive male leads and campy humor.)  But getting the clips to them has proved to be a bigger headache than I ever thought possible:

  1. The url for my WebQuest is long and complicated, so I signed up for a simpler one through Tinyurl.  However, I discovered today that my school's firewall blocks Tinyurl addresses for the crime of being "uncategorized."  Additionally . . .

  2. Last fall I painstakingly made notes through twelve hours of film in order to select appropriate clips for the students to watch.  I ripped the clips to my computer and uploaded them to YouTube.  YouTube promptly deleted two of them because I didn't have the rights to the film, despite the fact that there are 25 other clips of the film on the site.  Undaunted, I brought my copy of the movie to class so my students could watch the clips as a group.  But . . .

  3. To play a movie, depending on the computer I'm using (four classes, four classrooms, four floors of an old building with one slow and capricious elevator) I need to either insert the DVD and wait for the popup, double-click the icon on the desktop, or open the correct player and open the file from there.  If I do the wrong thing on the wrong computer, it will freeze up and my only option will be to restart.  And . . .

  4. Restarting a computer that's 5-10 years old can take 5-10 minutes.  Meanwhile, the students won't stop giggling about the fact that I said, "Later today we're all going to compare our theses."  Theses.  The plural of thesis.  Clearly, not enough of them take Latin.  Not to mention . . .

  5. The sound systems on all computers either work, don't work or sometimes work.  The ones that sometimes work are usually chosen by students who haven't listened to instructions.  The ones that don't work are always chosen first.  The ones that work are never chosen until the period is half over.


Despite this rigamarole, I have to say, it was intensely satisfying to walk the room and hear the click of keys and mice, the muffled sound of soundtrack music, and hushed snippets of conversation:

"No, God sent him to Nineveh, but he didn't want to go . . . "

"See, to find the end of the world, you have to get lost first."

"Isn't an albatross just a seagull?"

Such fun, seeing them learn.