Saturday, August 18, 2012

The One Drawback of a High Tech World

How can there be any drawbacks in an environment where you can instantly look up anything not only from your computer, but right from your phone? Information is so readily available and in many forms. I've noticed one thing amongst my students and even amongst my children. They have to work at being patient. There is very little reason to be patient. With their cell phones they can reach anybody usually at anytime, and find out a query instantly.

One thing the minimal technological existence I grew up in taught me was that things take time, work, and sometimes the answers you sought took several days to find, maybe even weeks. I began studying towards my Masters in Reading at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. The year was 1991. One of the classes I took that year had the requirement of completing four 20 page papers. At the time I owned an XT that thrived off of big floppy disks and had very minimal memory. I did have a word processor, so that was a step up from my undergrad days of the electronic typewriter. However, I could not check the library's catalog through the internet at that time. One of the papers I wrote was about the history of sight vocabulary. Lehigh University has two libraries an older one called Linderman and a much newer one, Fairchild-Martindale. I figured I would start my searching at the new library, which is not very close at all the the older library. Then I realized that the educational materials from the 1930's and 1940's were in the other library. I proceeded to take the long hike up the hill, find the call number of what I needed and climbed the spiral stairwell to the stacks, and finally after quite some time was able to locate the book I needed. I worked full time for their Child Care Center with preschoolers during the day at that time and many of my nights were spent running back and forth between the two libraries and coming back to collapse around midnight. I learned patience, time management, and humility.

Everything had taken more time, even the most enjoyable pursuits. I've always enjoyed singing, but at age 14 was a bit afraid the first night I joined my parish choir for a rehearsal in September of 1980. My home parish was the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Siena in Allentown, PA. The choir was a large one with about 70 members. It certainly was a very humbling experience. During my first rehearsal, our director had handed out far from anything easy to sight read. The piece he handed out was a polyphonic renaissance period motet, 8 different parts, and in Latin: Tu es Petrus, by Giovanni Palestrina. I learned the parts thanks to the two women I sat between, Peggy and Mary, who knew it cold, and thanks to my mother, who played the second alto part several times on the piano, and also thanks to our choir director who made us practice and practice and practice. It took time, but I can tell you that I still remember it to this day. It's much easier now to learn a new piece of music. You can usually find several Youtube clips of choirs singing the same arrangement, and not only that, but some sites have midi files of just the alto line, or tenor line, bass line, or soprano line of a motet, which you can download and listen to. It's easy squeezey. Not as much work to learn your part and a whole lot less of a chance that you'll mess up and miss an entrance the second rehearsal!

Technology has made so many aspects of our life easier and faster. Yes; in many ways it is a blessing, except for the patience thing. I find my students will get frustrated fast, and in Reading, that is not a good thing. I always have to convey to them that it takes time and practice. I often find that perseverance is just not a term they are used to, since they never grew up in a time where nothing, with the exception of Minute Made mashed potatoes or Lipton soup, was instant.

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