As I have expressed over many of blog posts, I have a particular interest in the website, TedTalks. For our podcast project, we were asked to discuss any matter that I thought pertained to our study of technology in class. For my podcast, two of my friends and I watched a TedTalk called Why You Will Fail To Have A Great Career and just discussed it, basically just voicing our receptions of the original thesis of video and giving our own opinions on the subject. Listen to the final podcast here:
So for my final project, I decided to focus on the relationship between children and their technology and how that has changed over the past hundred years or so. I had originally set out to focus on each decade, starting in the 1910s, all the way up to the present day, pointing out the specific technologies in education, toys and entertainment of each decade. But then as I began research, I realized that was way more information than I could handle and I would need months to put together a full project with that basis. So instead, I focused on the first half of the 20th century, namely the twenties to around the fifties, then I focused on the present day, from about 2000 to now.
The basic thesis or idea of the project was:
A) To show what technology children had/have at their disposal.
B) To show how that technology affects the way children live at the moment.
C) But the main focus was to show how that technology prepares them for their lives. In the first half of the century, the job market was based around blue-collar, hands-on labor intensive work and you could see that in the toys. Children’s toys were, for the most part, very well-made, especially compared to today’s toys. But these toys were sold with intent of teaching children how to work with parts and how to design and build things, which prepared them for the work they would face in the future. As for today’s ‘toys’, children are becoming consumed by technology and a lot of their playtime has been inadvertently transferred onto a screen. As many negatives side effects as this has so clearly had, it does still very much ready the children for their education and career. The world has changed dramatically since the first half of the 20th century, to a culture where the business world is fluent in technology it would be impossible to get a job without that understanding.
For the project, I was originally going to do a Keynote presentation but I decided that that wasn’t creative and/or aesthetically pleasing enough for me. So I decided to a sort of visual podcast, using iMovie. I first recorded my voice as the narration, then added the respective video clips. Watch my final project, Children & Their Technology, here:
For my final project, I decided to look at the technology that is available to children and how that was different nearly one hundred years ago. By extension, I looked at how the technology that is available to children affects how they grow up and what purpose it can or might serve when they exit childhood. Although, at first I didn’t necessarily plan to, I found myself focusing more on the negatives of today’s technology, as I’m sure many would. I juxtaposed the amount of time spent today inside in front of a screen and the amount of time spent outside with friends in the first half of the twentieth century. While looking for information, I found the perfect video of how deep of a grasp video games can have on children. It’s eerily intriguing.
I don’t know how I felt about this. I’ve been a loyal fan of 2pac ever since I got into hip-hop when I was a youngin, 1996’s All Eyez On Me being one of the first albums I ever bought myself. Tupac was an incredible poet, musician, speaker and thinker whose defining characteristics were completely unprecedented in hip-hop, such as his overwhelming respect for women and his passionate sensitivity that meshed so well with his angry but driven, activist voice. 2pac is often considered one of the top three greatest MCs of all time which is agreed upon by fans and other rappers alike. Many rappers who have come up within the past fifteen years or so often cite him as one their biggest influences. With Tupac as one of my favorite artists, I wouldn’t be surprised if I had the same mixed emotions as many of his loyal fans.
Because Tupac’s music was always so emotionally-charged, many of his loyal fans have a very real, emotional connection to his memory and the music he left us with. By the definition of a martyr, as “a person who displays or exaggerates their discomfort or distress in order to obtain sympathy or admiration”, I think Tupac was very much this person. I would argue, however, that Tupac displayed or exaggerated his struggle not for sympathy or admiration, but rather to publicize the struggle of the young black man or woman in America trying to make their way in a world of poverty, drugs, racism, gangs, violence, etc. He made himself an embodiment of the man who made it out of the hood, who made it through poverty and drug-abuse, gang affliation and gun-use. But he wasn’t looking for recognition by telling people how he shot people, or sold drugs or drove fast cars and got around. He wasn’t trying to be cool or someone else by telling people he did those things. He was in that arena but with a different purpose. He was a storyteller. He was a social activist. He was an advocate for believing in your talents and acting on them, pursuing your dream no matter what your circumstance. He preached the respect of our women and the protection of our youth. He was a poet and a motivational speaker. Tupac’s words of wisdom were incredibly inspirational and life-changing to those who listened. Tupac put himself so far out into a dangerous world to advocate for the betterment of our youth and ultimately, he died for it. The extent of Tupac’s reach is immeasurable.
Tupac’s main focus was young black men and women in the ghetto but his messages were undeniably universal. He had a learned understanding of his place in the human race and used his position of fame to enlighten the masses with his wisdom. When you can understand that Tupac wasn’t popularizing violence to make it desirable or make it a commodity, but instead using violence as a means of getting his point across, you will truly be able to understand his music.
Understanding my connection to 2pac, I reacted a couple of ways to the hologram:
1) I found it disturbing, not because they depicted a dead man as if he were alive, but rather because it reminded you that he is, in fact, dead. This is why I believe so many people had emotional reaction to it. To see someone that holds such a deep and powerful inspiration in your life in front of your face, so lifelike as if he were alive, whose death you had already accepted to be true, it reminds that he is dead and this can be quite shocking and stressful.
2) Why did they do it? Was it to honor Pac? I’m not sure if this makes sense as a way to honor Pac because it isn’t him, it isn’t his doing. He lives on through his music and his poetry and his wisdom but he never intended to be made into a holographic image that tricked his fans into temporary state of belief. Although this is true, I’m not sure Pac would be offended by it.
3) My third response was that, when I think about it, Pac probably would’ve loved it. In understanding Tupac as a person and understanding his philosophy he simply wanted to see a change that was provoked by the power of his words. He wanted to be remembered. In essence, the holographic performance was nothing more than a very real, eye-opening way of remembering and paying respect to our beloved deceased.
In conclusion, I realized through writing this, that I think Pac would have appreciated it. Tupac was a very loving, caring and understanding man and he was, in no way, misrepresented by the show. Had the hologram shown him in a light that he, alive, would never have put himself into, it would have been morally wrong and extremely offensive. But the decision was made by his old friends and fellow rappers (Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre) who have an undying love and respect for the man and simply wanted to see him to live on. (It must’ve been a little unsettling for Snoop to perform with one of his best friends who is fifteen years deceased but that’s another discussion). Plus the hologram had a tremendous affect on the world. I mean, who isn’t talking about the 2pac hologram right now? Plus I think he would have loved to be the first deceased man to appear in the form of a hologram. That’s a pretty memorable honor. Rest in peace, Tupac.
As a passionate, life-long lover of music I recognize the emotional power that music has on me on a daily basis. It can flood my body with pulsing elation, take me back to places I’ve lost in time or tell stories foreign and unfamiliar but yet still so moving and real. Music is a form education and communication as much as it is a form of artistic expression. The combination of poetry, rhythm, emotion, passion and many other aspects together form what we love and treasure and could not possibly live without. There is no formula for music.
Our natural drive and thirst for melody and rhythm in everyday life is what creates such an emotional attachment to music. Recently, nursing homes have discovered the ability music has to bring patients with an almost catatonic disconnection to the world back to life. People who don’t recognize their families anymore, or can’t form fluent sentences, or possess no ability to express emotion will often suddenly flourish into a state of awakened happiness at the sound of their favorite songs.
As technology has become more advanced over the last couple decades, music has become more and more available to those who need it but have been previously exempt from it. Apple’s iPod has become so small and accessible people literally have their favorite music at their fingertips and that, as you will see, has the ability to drastically change and renew lives.
Recently, a documentary, called Alive Inside, has been started on this very phenomenon of people in nursing homes “coming back to life” at the sound of their music. They have released a couple excerpts on YouTube that are incredibly moving and truly show the healing power of music.
TED, which stands for Technology, Education and Design, is another leading example of how the accessibility of the internet has made idea-sharing so easy. TED is an organization that holds events around the world where speakers present new ideas in the field of their choosing. The speakers are given a total of 18 minutes to explain their topics in the most engaging and understandable way possible. Originally intended to introduce new ideas and innovations in technology to the scientific world, TED’s topics have expanded to anything from science to humanities to storytelling to psychology.
TED Talks conferences have included appearances from Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Salman Khan, Al Gore, Andrew Stanton and numerous other names including authors, directors, inventors and Nobel Prize winners. Since 2006, the lectures have been available on their website that is now a database of over 1,100 different videos ranging in all subjects.
TED Talks also has something called TEDx events that take place at universities around the world and are available to the students. Rutgers is holding it’s second TEDx event on April 15th with multiple speakers. Although registration for attendance is closed, the TEDx Rutgers website will have a live-streaming video at the time of the event.
The short lectures are always profoundly compelling and insightful. New videos are posted almost everyday introducing new ideas, technologies and ways of thinking. I highly recommend checking out TED Talks:
Although a number of technologies have been introduced in the past century, education in itself hasn’t changed it’s form too drastically. Most teachers still lecture during class then assign the newly learned material for homework that is then graded and passed back. A former hedge fund analyst by the name of Salman Khan inadvertently created an idea that has already begun to morph education as a system. A couple years ago while in Boston, Khan was asked by his younger cousin in New Orleans to tutor her in her math class. Restricted by distance, Khan was unable to see her in person so he made a video of himself explaining the exercises and posted it on YouTube. Soon after he posted the video, he started getting lots of unexpected feedback from other YouTubers expressing how much his simple videos had helped them so much. With the amount of positive feedback Khan was receiving, he decided to start making more videos in different lesson plans and different subjects, to post to the general public. Today, with a new headquarters, a full staff and over 3,100 videos on their website www.khanacademy.org, Khan Academy is a rapidly expanding database of knowledge whose groundbreaking education style is changing education one classroom at a time.
Salman Khan, who still makes the videos himself, uses a technology that presents the viewer with a black screen. Using a small tablet hooked up to his computer, he solves the problems or explains the concepts by writing on the tablet which then translates the information to the screen. The information is presented on a sort of virtual chalkboard which livened by the use of different colored “chalk”. Khan then records himself explaining the exercises while he writes on his virtual chalkboard. Khan, whose voice is expressive and charismatic, is so well-spoken and is able to articulate his ideas so clearly and with such precision, the lecture’s are easy to follow and understand. In a lecture that might take up to two or three hour-long class periods, Khan condenses into a concise ten to fifteen minute video.
The influence of Khan’s videos on developing brains is unbelievable. Khan has received numerous letters from parents thanking him incessantly and expressing how his videos were able to get through to their children the way most teachers hadn’t. One mother, whose son had a form of autism, stated that after multiple school changes, tutor hirings and a wealth of money spent, she found Khan’s free videos online and introduced them to her son. She soon found that they were the only form of education that was able to get through to her son. Since the videos, he has excelled in school in topics he had previously been unable to comprehend.
In a number of elementary schools in California, Khan Academy is performing a sort of “trial session” in the classrooms. The most noticeable change, besides the rejection of textbooks, is a complete flip of traditional lesson plan. For homework, the students watch an assigned video on their current topic on Khan Academy’s website. Then the next day, in the classroom, the student’s do what would have been assigned for homework in a standard lesson plan, with the guidance of their teacher. Each student is given a temporary laptop where they post their answers during class. In the meantime, the teacher has, on his/her laptop, a chart of live-time results displaying which questions students have finished, which ones are correct or incorrect and how long each problem took the student. This way, instead of lecturing and hoping that the students will fully understand the topic, the teacher can precisely pinpoint each student’s strengths and flaws and guide them where help is needed. This approach to learning has proven to drastically increase each students overall performance and increase the test scores of these California “trial” classrooms.
The innovative thinking of Khan Academy is quite incredible and provides us with another example of technologies positive influence on our development. The company has single-handedly taken an age-old tradition of education and introduced a completely new technique that allows for individual student attention, a concise and understandable presentation of lesson plan and an overall increase in productivity and learning. I would encourage you to look more into Khan Academy and maybe even use one of their videos someday.
For a more in-depth description, hear Salman Khan explain the academy himself: