“Car Phone,” car phones, and educational technology.

Written by: Spencer Greenhalgh

Primary Source: Spencer Greenhalgh

It’s been a few years since I was first introduced to Julian Smith and his zany YouTube videos. Since some Utahns pronounce milk as “malk,” Julian’s video of the same name was particularly popular on the Brigham Young University campus.

It’s been about that same amount of time that I started questioning some of the ways that people throw around the word “technology.” Now, I recognize that I get uptight about words and usage, but in the months since beginning my PhD program, I’ve been able to put a finger on what it is that’s been bothering me, and it goes beyond sloppy word usage to the way that we integrate technology into our lives and our classrooms. This deserves a longer blog post one day, but to put it simply, when we talk about technology, we often consider the status and prestige of technology – the “shiny” factor – rather than its actual utility.

Thanks to happy coincidence, Julian’s latest video shows us how ridiculous that can be by sharing with us the story of a man whose pride in his car phone just doesn’t fit with the world of 2014. The last few seconds of the video really drive the point home: Don’t choose your tech based on the fickle “shiny” factor. Choose what will help you get done what you need to get done. If the only purpose of iPads in the classroom is to be today’s “car phone” and not to be a genuine educational tool, they probably aren’t worth the district’s money.

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Hi there! My name is Spencer Greenhalgh, and I am a student in the Educational Psychology and Educational Technology doctoral program at Michigan State University. I came to Michigan State University with a strong belief in the importance of an education grounded in the humanities. As an undergraduate, I studied French and political science and worked as a teaching assistant in both fields. After graduation, I taught French, debate, and keyboarding in a Utah private school before coming to MSU, where I plan to study how technology can be used to help students connect the humanities with their lives. I have a particular interest in the use of games and simulations to promote ethical reasoning and explore moral dilemmas, but am eager to study any technology that can help students see the relevance of studying language, culture, history, and government.