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David Pogue Takes on Gen Texters


David Pogue delivered a rousing call to tech action.

This year’s May 12 Faculty Technology Day started on a decidedly entertaining note, as science and tech writer David Pogue performed a little ditty on the latest in tech trends. Pogue, the former tech writer for The New York Times who is now anchor columnist for Yahoo Tech, surveyed the latest apps and concluded with a song medley (riffing on “I Got You Babe”) entitled “I Got YouTube.”

Pogue provided the student counterpoint to Columbia Teachers College Professor Charles Kinzer’s faculty perspective. Pogue said he believes that the generation gap is wider now than it ever has been due to technology–and held up his smart phone to make his point.

“The last thing they do is talk on these things,” he said.

Pogue described a revelatory moment when he launched a 2009 campaign against cellphone companies that use a protracted message on users’ answering services, instructing when and how to leave a message. The instructions take up to 15 seconds for a task everyone knows how to do. Those extra seconds, he said, translated into millions of billable minutes for the cell companies.

Even though his “Bring Back the Beep” campaign led to several companies rescinding the practice, he said his victory lap was cut short by an intern at the paper who said, “Come on dude, who does voicemail anymore?”

Pogue added that for the most part “nobody does email anymore” either.  He mentioned a recruiter from Microsoft who noticed a pattern from new hires fresh from college. When filling out forms, they left the email address and their home phone fields blank. He concluded that for this generation the “store and forward model is dead.”

“Everything is immediate, they don’t want to wait,” he said.

Associate Dean Elaine Congress tried on a pair of Google Glasses at Tech Day.

Even so, a technologically advanced student body still has plenty to learn: They need to be taught the permanence of the Internet; they need to understand cyber security; and they need to be taught ethics, Pogue said.

Pogue responded to questions about traditional disciplines such as handwriting and memorization. He noted that, in near-term, students will still probably be taught handwriting, but that skill will fade. Memorization would likely suffer the same fate.

He said not long ago a major concern was that students weren’t writing enough and “now they write all day long.” He added that calculators, which were once banned during exams, are now permitted.

“Memorization is not part of math anymore, it’s about breaking down the problem,” he said. “Every generation has its bugaboo. We tend to worry more than necessary.”


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