Wednesday, April 18, 2012

There's an app for laziness

I found something out today -- something so troubling that I just had to share. I'm just that kind of guy.

A student was sitting with his study group today and discussing a book. The exact book is unimportant, but it is "Inherit the Wind." It actually might be important because it happens to be a very short play. But on the whole, I don't think it is that important so let's move on, shall we? The student was trying to figure out how he could learn about the book without having to struggle through the whole hundred pages. He decided to read the SparkNotes. OK, I'm not going to fight. So I figured he'd open up his laptop and go to the SN site and read about the story.

A few minutes later, I saw him staring at his phone. I went over and said "I thought you were going to start working on your project. Put away the phone." I actually used his name, but his name isn't important. And how would you know if I lied to you about his name and chose one which was unimportant? If his name was Mohandas K. Gandhi then maybe you could make a case for its being important, but it wasn't. It was Michael. He said, "I'm working on it! I'm on SparkNotes." "Oh," I said, "you went to the site on your phone. OK." "No," he said, "theres a SparkNotes app."

I'll wait while you absorb that. Now I'll say it again: "SparkNotes app"

I'll wait again.

This has got to be the stupidest thing I have heard in the last 30 minutes, and I teach in high school!

Apps are already like SparkNotes for the internet. The phone user needs a faster and shorter way to access the underlying data which pollutes the web. The app helps categorize and limit information and makes it easier to access. But a shortcut to get to the literary shortcut seems ridiculous. Are the students that limited that they
can't get to the real, adult sized internet to get their shorter kid-friendly versions of books? Are we expecting that they are going to be on their phones and suddenly have to discuss themes from Puddin' Head Wilson? Does this often happen in situations where one can't get to a computer? Do our crutches need crutches? Shouldn't we stop trying to make everything handy and accessible in its minimalist form and demand that people do some modicum of work?

Sent from an actual computer.


Feel free to comment and understand that no matter what you type, I still think you are a robot.