Saturday, 27 January 2018

Confessions of a technophobe / reluctant technophile!

I have always had a kind of love-hate relationship with technology. When I stop and think about it, it goes way back. My mother had a sewing machine, one of those where you had to turn a handle to make the needle go up and down, which i used frequently. As a young teenager, I was moderately happy with my grandmother’s treadle machine but I was decidedly reluctant to use the electric machines they had in school. I was not in the least disturbed if other girls beat me to them and I had to use the old-fashioned hand-turned machines. Of course, eventually I grew accustomed to the electric machines. The very idea of using a different kind of machine now seems truly odd.

A similar thing happened with word-processing. I received a portable type-writer for my 21st birthday and thought it was a wonderful device. It was a terribly useful tool for preparing teaching materials. It was adaptable and could be used to prepare “banda” sheets and “roneo” skins (two methods of mass producing work sheets that young teachers nowadays are totally unaware of) for making multiple copies of the great ideas I had to try to teach my young pupils to speak French. And then some time in the 1980s we acquired an Amstrad word processor. I maintained a determined lack of interest in the thing. What did I need that for? My trusty type-writer was fine. I think it took about a week for me to be converted. Oh, the joy of being able to store your ideas on a disc, to be able to go back and alter the layout! Poor type-writer! And of course, the Amstrad in its turn was superseded by other, better, clever machines. Which I also learnt to use.

As information technology became more and more habitual in school and colleges, I had to attend numerous IT training sessions. I HATED THEM!! I do not say that lightly. My dislike of these seminars was visceral. I always went along, however, prepared to give the new development a chance. We would sit down at computers. An expert would take us through the steps of the new systems we needed to learn . And every time, every single time, I would find myself struggling to get my head round step three, for example, while the trainer was already moving on to step eleven. Even worse, everyone else in the room appeared to be able to follow the instructions - including people who were no good at Maths and who could not possibly string a sentence together in a foreign language or even spell correctly in their own native tongue. My frustration was immense!

Don’t get me wrong! I went away with the training booklet and worked it out in my own sweet time. I could do what I could do very well indeed. I was a whizz at making tables for all sorts of purposes. I was not at all bad with the Publisher programme. I used to produce newsletter which we sent out from our sixth form Modern Foreign Languages department to all our feeder/partner high schools, telling them what their former pupils had achieved. I worked my language laboratory with aplomb. No, I was not bad when I got going. I was just a bit of a slow learner. And maybe, just maybe, the training sessions should not have been run by IT experts!

Neither am I a total Luddite. I may not use Instagram and Photoshop but no doubt I could learn. And I take photos all the time. I still have, gathering dust somewhere, a very nice analog camera. It served me very well. The delight of collecting the developed photos is a fond memory. But my digital camera is one of my favourite toys! The freedom to snap a mass of pictures and then select the very best, just as if I were a proper photographer, is one of the best things!

My iPhone goes just about everywhere with me. I am well known among my friends for snapping a picture just about every day and posting it on Facebook. I text people all the time. However, I rarely use text-speak and have had arguments with my daughter about the past tense of the verb “to text”. Every time she says “so-and-so text me yesterday”, I want to correct her and long to say “you mean texted!”. I am growing more tolerant and manage to restrain myself these days.

Another of my favourite toys is my IPad mini: such a handy gadget to carry around with me and log into the internet in cafes. There I keep a stash of photos, collections of writing, lists of this and that. I would not be without it for the world. The same goes for my kindle, although I have to admit to a very real preference for reading proper books, with proper paper pages to turn. However, my kindle lets me take a whole library travelling with me.

The fact remains, it must be said, that I still rely heavily on someone else for all the technical stuff relating to these toys of mine. My main technician is Phil, who just knows how to do this stuff. He is the one who can tune the radio and television, even if he is not as good as I am at recording stuff! 

And so, when he bought me a Fitbit for my birthday the other day, I had to wait until he was available to sit in as I worked through setting the gadget up. Together we got it sorted, although we had to some hurried calculations to convert my height in feet and inches into metric measurements. Oddly enough, it was quite happy to accept my weight in stones and pounds. All this so it could work out how long my average step would be.

Such fun! A new gadget to play with. I have had a secret hankering for such a device ever since my daughter’s iPhone counted our steps in Pontevedra and more recently told us that we had walked eight kilometres around Manchester Christmas shopping. Already it has told me that last night I slept for 6 hours and 34 minutes, and that I have waked over 12,000 steps and more than 9 kilometres today.

Oh dear, I hope I am not going to become an obsessive step counter! We have to be careful not to let technology take over. As I said, a bot of a lobe-hate thing!

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