Sunday, January 25, 2009

Perpetual Beta: Does It Mean Mediocrity?

It's been quite a while now that I've resigned to the concept of perpetual beta, the idea that technological change is occuring so consitently and with such frequency that resistance if futile or at least frustrating to getting on with teaching and learning.

Though I can't resist rapid change, I wonder if I must resign myself to mediocrity. Working through problems--such as trying to get all of my students on our classroom wireless at one time, or logging on to an essential site for instruction only to find it is blocked by our school's filter or wracking my brain to remember the control "switches" between PC and Mac--and thus taking twice as long to get to the nugget of learning seems counterproductive.

It not limited to lack of competence in using all of the latest tools in the planned course. This month I've noticed systemic breakdowns in websites, rental car stores, retail chains, and don't get me started about my Sprint Instinct mobile phone. Companies and institutions gleefully brag about their twenty-somethings running the technology. Yes, what the geek squad can do is wonderful, but what "the kids" as Apple, calls these uber-underlings, all to often don't have is experience, people-to-people diplomacy, and a "customer is always" right mentality.
So I'm wondering if I am colluding with society that accepts a shoulder shrugged "system's down" excuse for how things are. I have been compelled to accept papers late because of the technical glitches ad nauseam at the nexus of student user and online paper submission system. My "dog ate it" has morphed into a parental note "please excuse this because our computer was not working last night." Hmmmmm. I think I liked the dog excuse better, for the lessons I'm afraid we are teaching our students as we "hang in there" till we're back online.
Image credit: Vingette of "Bulldog." By Pleple2000. June 2007. Wikimedia Commons. 25 Jan. 2009 <>.