The launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus is big in every way if you count numbers. Orders in the first 24 hours are said to have been more than 4 million strong, and according to the Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, “Apple’s main manufacturing supplier, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., employed more than 200,000 people on about about 100 production lines at a Chinese factory exclusively for the new iPhones.” Sales of the new Apple iPhones were 10 million over the weekend, reported the New York Times.
A huge advocate of technology and its use in education, I have not purchased or ordered the newest reincarnation of this popular smartphone. And I am not tempted to get the newest offered by the competition either. Does this mean that overnight I have become a Luddite and am retreating to a cabin in the piney woods where I will live and use a manual typewriter and make once-a-week trips to the county library?
No such conversion has taken place. But I am beginning to think that the technology tools my students and I use–this week some will be writing their in-class five-paragraph theme essay exams on smartphones, some on tablets, others on laptops, a few on paper with pencil–do not need to be exchanged as often as the advertisers want us to believe. The media coverage is often also a kind of enabler in making purchases of the latest tool. It is time to tune out some of that techno-buzz noise, such as that by the New York Times, in which a Mr. Kuittinen of Magid Associates is quoted as saying, “It’s going to be a very scary Christmas for HTC, Samsung and LG.”
My students and I will continue to be able to write our essays, do research on the Internet, convert Word to PDF files, read books, even play a kind of virtual Scrabble using Words with Friends, on our “old” devices, frequently born a mere year ago. The new phones, no matter what brand, do not really have anything revolutionary to offer, especially if we continue to think of technology as a tool, as we should.
The new version of these tech tools does not appear to be much different in the same way that my current lawnmower is not all that different from a new lawnmower. I don’t see any reason to go out and purchase a new one, as the lawnmowers on the market still do the job the “old” way, with tech features such as mulching and self-propulsion having been around for a while, without any new major developments, such as a lawnmower that really works remotely and thinks for itself, for example. So I can be as happy walking behind my lawnmower in my running shoes, which also don’t need to be replaced, because the technology does not change that much every year, and the lawn still gets mowed.
We must keep our technology longer and not throw it away, even recycle it responsibly, as is now becoming more fashionable, thankfully. Let us not use the convenient recycle route either to excuse the purchase of a new smartphone or tablet under the guise of being earth-conscious citizen participating in yet another community social awareness program. There are other, immaterial ways we can reward ourselves.
A worthwhile program would be one that encourages people to use their technological devices as long as possible. I have not seen any ad campaign depicting a smartphone with a slogan along the lines of, “Keep it. You don’t need a new one.” Such a campaign would be a wonderful service project for college students, teaching social responsibility, helping save money, and reinstating that wonderful, old-fashioned pride and practice people had in taking care of their things and making them last.
Students writing slogans and designing ads on what are not the most recent versions of tech equipment, keeping track of participation results on spreadsheets on software versions that are perfectly functional even if new ones will be offered tomorrow, students engaging with modern tools, beginning to foster a new way of thinking when it comes to consumerism, what a beautiful thing could result from technology use, without needing the new offerings by tech companies XYZ.
All the maintenance plans we buy for electronic devices, which have become some kind of license really to act recklessly or carelessly with them, how much money could be saved if we did an alt mind reset. Simple devices such as key chains to make sure smartphones are not forgotten, the practice of being focused when closing the trunk of the car so as not to have the smartphone crushed, adding commonsensical measures of care for our belongings that might take hold in other areas of our lives–it is amazing how much could be learned just by using a smartphone that is less than two years old.
And when the day comes that your electronic device no longer works, or if there are true advances, the equivalent of moving from pick ax to rototiller, take the leap. You and your students truly deserve it.