Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Most recent inanity from an outdated tech guy

The national organization that I am a member of – National Association of School Psychologists, or NASP, has an article called “Tech Corner.” It is written by a past president of the organization, Bill Pfohl, NCSP, who is probably an outstanding school psychologist. However, he is less well equipped to be a technical journalist. Here is his June 2009 article. I will be going through some of his older articles as I go through the backlog of information I have sitting in my office as I prepare for next year.


Are We Too Connected?

As the school year closes, it has caused me to look back on

technology over the year. What I am most struck by is a philosophical

query. Are we becoming too connected? This year

saw headlines of viruses “that will shut down the Internet on

April 1” (Conficker). Young teens were criminally charged for

“sexting” by sending nude self-photos to others on cell phones.

A teen female recently committed suicide after her boyfriend

re-sent her nude pictures to others on his cell phone. A recent

survey on teen Internet use of Facebook yielded that teens reveal

a great deal of risky personal behavior about themselves:

41% on substance abuse, 24% on sex, and 14% on violence.


Well, I was going to cite the study but I just learned that there are a list of banned search terms here at work, including “Facebook” and “sex.” Awesome. The proxy service that I use is also blocked here, by blocking all https traffic. W00t.


Ninety percent of teens have access to the Internet either at

home or school. Cyberbullying is near epidemic as it can replace

hallway confrontations. Facebook wants to sell information

about its members. Members’ protests stopped them.

Colleges and employers are now checking Facebook pages for

clues about admissions/employability. It is amazing what is

found there on Facebook.


Yeah. Amazing. Also, totally cool. And the future of the internet.


Some people are so hooked to their e-mails that a delayed

response brings a tirade (I saw that somewhere) from the

sender that makes me wonder if we are too connected. Our

new President has been a “crackberry addict” (those using

Blackberry devices) for most of his professional life. He protested

loudly when the Secret Service tried to silence him due

to national security. In numerous settings, I have observed

two or more devices sitting in front of an individual, while

they write and wait for the next e-mail, even on airplanes.

New data suggests multitasking is not all it is said to be, as

all tasks get done “less well.” The average person takes up to

20 minutes to refocus after answering an e-mail.


Interesting data. Based on what information?


Apparently this is a “fact.” I found a little information regarding it here. The article itself is:


Rubenstein, J. S., Meyer, D. E., Evans, J. E. (2001) Executive Control of Cognitive Processes in Task Switching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 27 (4). Retreived June 16, 2009, from http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/xhp274763.pdf


Okay, I get that. But still. That’s what we do now.


Students and clients now Google their professor/therapist

before registering for class or seeing them. Is this a balanced

or fair evaluation of a professor/therapist?


No. But that’s the point. We all have opinions based on what we know of anybody or anything. You get personal recommendations, you get advice, assistance, etc. Information that is collected is based on opinions of others. It’s what we do.


Will this new information potentially damage or negatively influence

their decision?


No more so than any other opinion which “potentially damages or negatively influences their decision.”


Are university training programs supposed

to monitor graduate students’ Facebook or other social networking

pages to see if they are “professional” or represent

the program/university appropriately?




What are the limits?


Do you stop students from talking? I mean, is this even a serious question? The internet is no different from real life. The only change could be anonymity. However, Facebook is not burdened by this limitation.


Do I really need to know how drunk they were at the end

of the semester?


No. If that bothers you, de-friend them. Why are you your student’s friends on Facebook anyway? That seems like a limitation in your choice of friending.


And finally, I have observed—in the men’s

restroom—cell phone use as we do what is supposed to be

private. Females too? I hear: yes.


Okay, I agree with you there. That just needs to stop.


Are you a “tweeter”—using Twitter to keep everyone up

on your every move? Do you follow your favorite celebrity?

Ashton Kucher is the most followed. Do you really care?


Sometimes (I’m not as good as I should be with it… mainly because, like Facebook, it’s blocked everywhere I go.) Kind of. My tech celebrity. And do a degree, yes. But of course, this is not something I obsess about. Or write articles about for newspapers.


As I write this, Time magazine is conducting their annual

Internet survey on who is the most influential person in the

world. Ever hear of “moot” aka Christopher Poole of 4chan

.org? He had over 16 million votes, far outdistancing anyone

else. He is a 21-year-old blogger college student. I had not.


Me either. But, I know what 4chan is and it represents the ability of people to speak out en masse and anonymously against horrible atrocities, such as the Church of Scientology.


A parent recently told me of a cell phone bill for her 14-yearold

son for the month: $560—all texting his friends and girlfriend.

(Now on the unlimited plan.)


Two problems here. Lack of communication to the child (you know that texting costs 20 cents a pop, right? And lack of utilizing the unlimited plan. I’ll let ride the question about the necessity of a cell phone at 14.


He was upset that the parents wanted him to work it off or help pay it.


Yup. The parents didn’t put him on the unlimited plan or have a conversation about it ahead of time.


I see students in college bring laptops to class, not for notes, but to

check Facebook pages or respond to e-mail.


Multi-tasking. Get used to it.


Texting is totally out of control on a college campus. Twitter or texting is used

for cheating too: helping others with exam or quiz questions!




When will the first GRE or LSAT scandal happen?


After they stop letting you take electronic devices into the room. I’m pretty sure that’s a rule. I had to leave my cell phone in the car. And this was about 10 years ago when it was just a phone.


Why, yes, that is correct. Here is the information about what you cannot take into a testing center:


Personal items other than identification documents are not allowed in the testing room. This includes cell phones, PDAs, BlackBerry® devices and any other electronic or photographic devices. You will not have access to your personal items during the test or during breaks. Before the test, you will receive instructions from test center staff regarding where you must deposit personal items. You will be required to follow the procedures set by the test center for storage of your cell phone or any electronic or photographic device you bring to the test center. If you take personal items into the test room, they will be collected by the test center staff. Personal items such as hats, scarves, jackets and outerwear that are taken into the test room are subject to inspection by the test center staff before being admitted to the test room. Failure to comply may result in dismissal from the test and/or cancellation of scores. If you fail to follow the directions of the test center staff, you will not be permitted to take the test. Any violation of this procedure during the test or breaks may result in cancellation of your scores, dismissal from the test center staff or banning from future testing. Test centers and ETS assume no responsibility for personal items or devices that you choose to bring into the test center.


Parents now text their child to come to dinner. I was

“called” to dinner.


It’s a method of communication. I call my children to dinner. It’s hard. They say they can’t hear me. I get a ton of “WHAT?” back in response. If I could text them, I might.


Two 9-year-old friends were texting in

the back seat of the same car … to each other.


I can’t defend that. Although it is quieter than a whisper.


While I have embraced technology readily, I have to ask are the “people to

people” aspects of socialization becoming out of date? Is life

now going to be virtual? I am seeing on my college campus a

push for online courses. I have heard the pros—many—but

the cons also strike me. If I were sitting next to a person at

Starbucks using the free WiFi, would I even know they are in

my class and discussing the topic in real time with me online

and we have much in common? I doubt it.


While I understand the need for “people to people” communication, there are two different places for it to happen. One is online. Another is in person. What’s the difference between knowing people online versus in person? For the most part, there is no physical contact – maybe a handshake – so that’s not it. The method of communication changes from verbal to written but not always – you could watch a Youtube video. So what if you didn’t know that the person sitting next to you was taking the same course as you were?


Also, the wifi at Starbucks is not free. You can get limited access, blah blah blah.


I have little control over these issues but do think, as many

psychologists do, that we are definitely in a new age, similar

to the Industrial Revolution. Do we recognize it? I hear

about how social networking does keep people together and

informed easier and more in real time. Certainly this has advantages.

It is the overwhelming reliance on technology without

the personal face-to-face interaction that strikes me as

the difference in our newfound connectedness. Oh, yes, I do

video Skype with my new granddaughter every Sunday. Overall

my conclusion is we are too connected by technology. I

prefer face-to-face interaction.


Fine. But understand that it is a preference. Your granddaughter – there’s a place where physical contact could be important. Depending on how new, I’m sure it would be nice to hold her or feed her or otherwise interact. But for the most part, we can communicate just fine over text and/or video.



Are all CDs the Same?

My wife bought me a new technology piece that converts LP

(yes, vinyl long play albums) and my audiocassette collections

to CD. (LPs are making a comeback.) The question came

up whether a music CD is the same as a data CD. The new

machine wanted a special music CD to copy to. After some

Internet research, I found that it really does not matter! A few

stand-alone machines may require the specially formatted

CD disks. However, all regular computer CD players (read/

write units) can use any data CD without loss of fidelity. So

you are paying extra for the music CD label but are not gaining

higher audio quality.




Windows 7

I have been consistent in my reluctance to recommend Windows

Vista in this column, as have many in magazines and

tech articles. Vista is frequently referred to as the new Windows

ME—another Microsoft snafu! Vista was bloated, not

compatible with other devices, and took a great deal of memory

to run it—if it ran at all. Microsoft said that it sold over

180 million copies and that 90% were satisfied with the Vista

product. I do wonder about the “spin” to this data. By the end

of this year, Microsoft will release its new operating system,

called Windows 7. The initial reviews are highly positive. It

has the feel and ease of use of Windows XP but can use the

new high powered 64 bit CPUs and new multicore processors.

If you are daring and knowledgeable, you can download

a Beta copy to review for Microsoft. It should be available by

December holidays. If you are thinking about a new computer,

it may be worth the wait.




1)     Alright, he’s right about Vista. 2) Any numbers are spun by anybody. On Windows Weekly (a podcast on the TWiT network that I love dearly), Paul Thurrott reviewed the numbers of PCs sold. Basically, you’ve had to purchase Vista if you’ve purchased a PC for the past year or so, since XP has not been offered recently. Just by the virtue of the number of computers sold, that many copies of Vista were sold. 3) Vista has a 64 bit capability as well. 4) This is just a style thing, but “… you can download a Beta copy to review for Microsoft. It should be available by December holidays” just doesn’t work. The beta (no capital b in beta) is available now. The final version will be available by December holidays.


Laptops, Electronic

Devices, and Travel

A new directive by the Department of Homeland Security

allows them to confiscate your computer or any other electronic

device without giving a reason at any airport boarding

area or border crossing. There is no obligation to ever give

it back. They can look at the hard drive, transfer all files to

the government’s computers for scanning, or look at stored

e-mails and messages. This is seen by many to be a civil liberty

issue, but the government sees it as a security measure

to prevent terrorism. So iPods, flash drives, cell phones, beepers,

or video or audio tapes can be confiscated at the whim

of the agent. Federal courts have upheld these new directives.

This is another issue to worry about as we travel within and

outside the USA.


This is all the space he gives to this subject? He spends the whole first half of the article talking about the lack of face-to-face and then he drops this in here? Really? This is huge. It’s also ancient news.


Have a great summer!


You too.

1 comment:

raulgonemobile said...

Blah, that's really long.

Couple of thoughts. Regarding FB, the one upside and downside is that all of the data on a person is in one place. You can see what they like, what they've been doing, etc, quickly, without canvassing a whole slew of people.

As long as people are mindful of that when they're putting their persona out there, no worries. But yeah, it can come back to bite you.

Regarding the music CDs, if I remember right, the "music CD" was created by the music industry, and is basically just a tax on regular data CDs. They're pushing them on uninformed users as a money grab. I'm too lazy to look that up, though.