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Speaker Pogue says don't fear new technology

Photo courtesy of Lifetouch Photography

From a dizzying tour of the mobile app world to rousing rendering of his YouTube sing-along, “iPhone: the Video” (sung to the Sinatra standard, “My Way”), technology columnist and PBS Nova host David Pogue employed humor and the awe of what is and is yet to come with his audience at Sunday morning’s Second General Session at NSBA’s annual conference in Nashville.

Pogue mixed dozens of examples of technological hits and misses with a few live demonstrations, such as playing “Over the Rainbow” on his iPhone using an app called Ocarina to opening another mobile app to turn down the thermostat at his Connecticut home.

“Think about what’s inside this thing (cell phone) – input and output for audio and video, sensors, 15 different wireless antennae, compass, GPS, all kinds of technologies that will blow your mind…but they are just the dawn,” said the founder of Yahoo Tech and author of several books in the “For Dummies” series.

Among the other technology advancements Pogue shared were:

  • One that uses a camera and GPS to enable your phone to show you which way to walk to reach your destination.
  • Another called “Word Lens” allowing the user to point a phone’s camera at written text in Spanish and get an instant translation into English, and vice versa.
  • An app that lets you enter health symptoms and see reports of similar conditions in your community.
  • Options to see and rent homes while owners are away at a fraction of the cost of hotels, and to put “grunt jobs” around the house out for people to bid on to do the work.

“I call that ‘World 2.0’ – the sharing economy,” he said. “We used to do a transaction by going to a store, now people are doing business with each other directly.”

Some new uses of technology – such as the taxi alternative Uber – are “shaking things up in a big way, but you are not putting this Genie back in the bottle. The world has moved on,” Pogue said.

Not all new technologies are providing successful, and Pogue used Goggle’s initial entry into camera-and-computer aided glasses as an example. Another was a fitness band designed to measure various elements of physical activity by body movements. “But they found that flexing your biceps is the same movement as eating Doritos,” he said.

For Pogue, the most interesting part of today’s technological advances is how it is affecting the next generation.

“Everything now has to be real time – texting, Facebook, Twitter,” he said. “Microsoft interviewers have found new college grads are leaving two blocks blank on application forms: home phones and email addresses, because they don’t have them.

“We are in an era where things that don’t wind or move or are printed are in decline. In their place is anything digital, or person to person direct,” Pogue said. “Technology is coming so fast, people say, ‘How am I supposed to keep up?’ Even for me, it’s like drinking from a fire hose.”

But Pogue challenged his audience not to be afraid of the tech changes ahead.

“When microwaves came out in the 1950s, we were told it could cause cancer. It didn’t. People have always been afraid of things that are new. Every new technology is terrifying but somehow we muddle through and abandon the bad stuff (pauses, coughs and mutters, “MySpace.”), he said. “All I know is that what seems alien to us now will become the new status quo.”

Earlier in the General Session, outgoing NSBA President Anne M Byrne used her final report to the membership to debut the association’s newest resource – the Center for Public Education’s (CPE) toolkit to improve low-performing schools, called “Leading for Change.”

“School boards have an important role to make change happen,” Byrne said. “CPE developed these wonderful decision-making tools to empower school board members to exercise their leadership in transforming chronically low-performing schools into high performing schools. The toolkit is designed specifically for school board members and represents the best thinking from urban, suburban, and rural districts all across this country.”

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