by Jeffrey J. Hanrahan, Academic Technologies
Around 1875 the telephone became a commercial product allowing people to communicate using audio. This was used for personal and business use. It allowed people to stay in contact with each other over short and long distances as person-to-person. It was not much of a learning tool.
In 1920, comercial Radio broadcasting, evolved. This was one-way broadcasting of audio from one-source to many listeners. Although it provided personal entertainment, the underlying principle was for marketing of business products. It also introduced some side effects. It made you use your mind to create detailed images of what was transacting on the radio. It provided steady “noise” in the background and generated the perceived sense that you were in a group with others around you. You could go about doing things while you listened to the radio. Portable radios allowed people to listen to broadcasts and music while they were outside or traveling. People would also turn on a late night talk program to lull themselves to sleep at night as the radio tubes glowed in the dark. There was little or no educational value.
Shortly afterwards in 1928 came commercial television. This was one-way broadcasting of video from one-source to many viewers. It also had side effects. You didn’t have to use you mind to imagine events that were transpiring. With the addition of “Laff Box” systems (canned-laugher) you are told when things are supposedly funny. It is provided to you in a video. It didn’t require you to think, you just needed to watch. It made the population less intelligent and molded their attention span. It also tied you to the television screen and people were’t able to go about doing other things for the fear of “missing something”. Television programs were designed to tell stories for 30 or 60 minutes and it seems that these shows set our attention span to the time it takes for a scene to change, around 3 minutes. Music videos became annoying as the camera shots would change every few seconds like clockwork. So much visual stimulation was added that you would have to say to yourself “Is there anything else on TV?”. There would be news programs 30 minutes long, broadcasted 3 times and then on some other channel you may see a “60 Seconds Around the World” film clip that contains more information than the 30 minute newscast. The news programs often read E-Mails and show YouTube videos for their content. If they continue to do that, why do we even need news programs anymore?
There were people who didn’t like the mindless television shows being produced so television also became a limited tool for teaching with the creation of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) channel. Television also became a baby sitter for children, and still allowed people to be lulled to sleep at night. It became a drug that our nation was addicted to.
By 1973, mobile phones evolved. Still a one-way broadcasting of audio in a person-to-person environment. The technology was still young and used primarily for business use.
In 1980 the Internet came into existence. It provided a central perceived place where “things” can reside and be accessed globally at any time of the day or night, including holidays. It is one of the few things that was initially designed for educational use. As marketing and business usage was added, the Internet grew in size and offerings as well as the devices that were able to access it.
Then in 2007, the iPhone came into existence and changed nearly everything. A telephone with audio, video and E-Mail came into existence that can access the Internet. There is an app (software application) for just about anything. You don’t have to bother yourself with building anything, you don’t even need to know how to write cursively anymore. You don’t even need to purchase various musical instruments, because there is an app for them. There are even educational apps to help you learn.
The mobile phone evolved, iPads and Tablets came into existence and provided a means to view material from the Internet and video broadcasting services. These became the Electronic Swiss Army Knife. They are used as an electronic pacifier for children. It makes television portable. With the proper application, these devices can serve as the remote control for your television. Instead of reading a book, there are videos on how to fix and do things. This also brought on the need of where to save digital things that you want to keep. The “Cloud” came into existence as the solution. The new electronic devices eliminate the need for physical social interaction. It also eliminated the need for children to develop mechanical skills. Why should they physically build a go-cart when there is an app that probably does it for them digitally? People can stay at home and have the luxury of listening to network radio broadcasts, play streaming television, watch movies, play videos, listen to music, do electronic E-Mail, electronically shop in stores and handle banking transactions. Just point and click.
Technology has molded us over time to prefer and accept a number of things; person-to-person contact, information presented in a short and concise timeframe, information that is to the point, video preferred over text, one place for all content, off-device information storage, immediate information access, tap and swipe rather than typing, greater availibility of consumable content, catering to short attention spans (you can fast forward the content).
Technology has also exposed us to some things that are not so good; everything on the Internet may not be true, advertisers are relentless to sell you things, mental activity is preferred over physical activity and that just one of “Who, What, Where, When and Why” is acceptable in a story.
Early technology has provided the parts for the evolution of where we are today and how we expect things to operate. It has provided us with the Internet which is technology designed for education and sharing information despite becoming more of a marketing tool. It has given us Cloud services, Learning Management Systems at colleges, On-Line Courses and specialized instructional courses.