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IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: Mobiles in school the right choice


Roy R. Morris

IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: Mobiles in school the right choice

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TODAY I RETURN to the issue of cellphones and children and the on-going discussion among adults on whether these pervasive devices should be allowed in schools.

The more I think about the subject the more convinced I become that treating the cellphones as an unwanted implement in schools will work to our detriment as a society.

I understand fully all the “vices” that irresponsible use can promote and the need to protect vulnerable children from them, but again I have to declare that I support the stance of Minister of Education Ronald Jones on this matter.

It will turn out to be a grave error if we attempt to judge today’s world by yesterday’s standards – and worse yet, if we confine tomorrow’s leaders to yesterday’s thoughts.

It took less than an hour of watching the NBC Network’s report on the Detroit Auto Show over the weekend to reinforce in my mind that we have an obligation to ensure we do nothing that will make our young people second-class citizens in this digital world.

We have a duty to ensure that every last child, regardless of socio-economic class, has almost 24-hour access to smart technology, especially to devices that have become an integral part of everyday life.

They ought to be so at ease with the technology that learning about its dynamics arouses excitement in them. They must be taken to the point where interest in and access to the jobs that will be generated by this technology become second nature.

I looked at all the technology on display at the annual Detroit event and could not help but be fascinated:

 

• Nissan Titan pickup truck: Hitch any trailer to it and turn on “back-up assist” and the vehicle, with no hands on the steering wheel, backs up perfectly into the most difficult spots, a task that can frustrate many experienced drivers when a trailer is involved.

• Mercedes Benz cars will be coming with the latest of touch-screen technology – only you don’t have to touch the screen. Apparently it “sees” hand gestures and obeys; so if you want to turn up the volume on the radio, you turn you fingers like you were turning a knob and it obeys.

• Hyundai is now designing its instrument panels like smartphones. There is a row of icons across the bottom of the screen. You touch the one you want (just like on your smartphone), then simply give the car a voice command.

• I missed the model vehicle here, but one manufacturer has dumped the old paper manual for the vehicle. You just open your engine compartment, turn on your tablet or smart phone and point the camera at the engine. Instantly a series of icons pop up for each part, and if you want to change an oil filter, for example, you tap the icon and it provides a video to guide you.

• Chevrolet has added a safety feature. If you do not buckle your seatbelt when you get in you cannot turn on the radio and other entertainment features.

• Nissan is putting a warm cup holder for coffee and other hot beverages and a chill cup holder for cold beverages right in the console between the front seats.

• Audi unveiled its Quatro of the future, which will run on hydrogen – no gas, no batteries. Fuel created from water.

• Buick showed off its new luxury SUV with “adaptive cruise control”. Cruise control has for decades been a headache saver for persons travelling at high speeds over long journeys. With ACC, however, in slow moving, stop-and-go traffic all the driver does is steer – the computer controls the accelerator and brakes.

• Ford unveiled a feature that should be standard for all vehicles in Barbados – a pothole detection system. The car detects them and adjusts the suspension quickly to avoid damage.

So you may ask: What on earth these features have to do with our children in Barbados and their use of cellular phones?

My response: Who is going to take care of these vehicles? Your old roadside mechanic in greasy overalls with a bucket full of spanners and wrenches for whom a fuel injector is still rocket science?

We do our children a disservice if we continue to enforce systems that make these technologies appear like intrusions on education. They have to be an integral part of the education process.

If we think that children recording a fight or a sex scene in the classroom is justification for shutting out the technology, then in a few years we will have to answer for creating a generation of electronically retarded graduates.

 

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