Technology is Only as Good as the Idiot Using It. Even in Schools.

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The following story is true. As far as you know.

I wish it weren’t, but it is.

In my estimation, the story is also borderline sad. Actually there is nothing borderline about it. It’s just sad.

It’s not sad like a lost puppy, but close.

Or sad like a player on the opposing basketball team during the Regional Championship Game hitting a shot in overtime to beat your team with 3 seconds left.

Did I mention the shot was from behind the backboard as the player fell out of bounds (I can’t make this stuff up… because I really wish this hadn’t happened)?

It’s not even sad like the creepy guy at the gas station who says your lottery tickets are all losers, than sticks an actual winning ticket into his pocket. This causes you to get into a screaming match with him and throw a pack of Twinkies right at his Aerosmith baseball cap wearing head.

Before you know it, the police have to get “involved”.

Alright, maybe I made the last one up. Notice I said maybe.

But back to the main sad story. road-in-woods

In fact, sad may not be a strong enough word. But since this is a family blog, I can’t use the word that best describes it. Or phrase. A really long bad phrase with lots of adjectives and verbs (my next New Year’s Resolution really needs to address my language…)

A couple of years ago, some genius had the idea to drive to a neighboring state to watch my niece play high school basketball.

Since I conveniently don’t remember who the genius was, I will continue to assume it wasn’t me.

At first, the trip seamed harmless enough.

Just get in my truck and drive to Missouri. What could possibly go wrong? It’s not like we were going to Kentucky (please keep in mind that I delete all emails that directly insult or threaten me in the subject line).

This trip had all the makings of being a real winner.

Life on the road. Eating out. High school girls’ basketball. Missouri.

It’s like I’d won the lottery and got to keep the ticket (turns out possession is 90% of ownership).

Oh, it gets better.

My traveling party consisted of the wife, my very young evil spawn, and the in-laws.

I anticipated smooth sailing (this should not be construed as sarcasm if you were on the trip… if you weren’t on the trip, it is dripping with sarcasm).

The trip had to go well because I had just purchased a brand new GPS. This was a mortal lock that I would never be lost again.

If you don’t have a GPS, you need one. You also need to make sure it is set so the very attractive British woman’s voice is bossing you around by telling you where to go.

How do I know she is attractive? Trust me, she is.

But enough about my love of accents.

The trip was going just fine until we got close to the school. At least we thought we were close to the school.

Being the new owner of a GPS when it (she) said to turn, I did.

This was a mistake. Soon I would find out how big of a mistake.

If there is one thing I do well, it is follow directions (it is possible this sentence contains just a hint of sarcasm).

The GPS kept telling me to turn and turn and turn.

So I did and did and did.

Before I knew it we were on the side of a mountain. Or as much of a mountain that you can find in rural Missouri.

The GPS had led us down what appeared to be some sort of “road”.

It was more of a muddy path used by wild animals. The last time I saw a road/path like this, Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty were running down it in the movie Deliverance.

And Ned was squealing. Not in a good way.

It was obvious we were lost. To everyone but us.

I had put my faith in the very attractive British GPS woman and she had failed me. She had led us off the beaten path. And then we went another 8 miles. Straight up.

We were so far astray that I couldn’t even turn around. The hunting path had gotten too narrow. And muddy.

You know what happens when you can’t turn around?

You got it. We had to back down the mountain.

Except, I couldn’t. You see, we were stuck.

And the British woman had gone surprisingly quiet.

Wild animals were walking by shaking their heads in disgust.

This story could go on for another hour and 15 minutes (which is about how long it took to back down the mountain), but I don’t want to relive it.

At the time I said, “One day in the future, this will all be funny.”

That day hasn’t arrived.

When we eventually made our way to a main road (at this point with everyone in dead silence), I drove about 1 mile and there was the school.

We had driven right past it. On the way up the hill.

But the British lady didn’t bother to point this out. And I didn’t notice because I had technology on my side.

And there were a total of 4 teachers in the car. All with Master’s Degrees. And close to 100 years of teaching experience.

But yet, none of us were smart enough to recognize a school building that had a huge electronic sign in front that said “Girls Basketball Game Today!”

We followed the British GPS lady. Like lambs to the slaughter. Like idiots. Like Ned Beatty to… well you know (and if you don’t… and are male… take my advice and avoid watching Deliverance as it will haunt your dreams… or should I say nightmares).

I think you see this same type of behavior in schools.

No, not Ned Beatty’s.

The blind use of technology.

It’s purchased. Then it’s dropped in a classroom. With absolutely no training. Much like me with the GPS (as I look back, reading the directions might have been helpful).

Before you know it, the teacher is lost. Maybe not on a dirt road on top of a hill after driving right by their destination 2 hours earlier, but none the less… lost.

So how can we avoid this “lost” feeling when it comes to technology?

It takes more than just buying computers, SMARTBoards, etc. It takes assistance, mentoring, training, and maybe even hand-holding.

But I am begging administrators and schools everywhere, please don’t let your teachers end up like me.

Or even worse. Like Ned.

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8 Responses to “Technology is Only as Good as the Idiot Using It. Even in Schools.”


  1. JDeyenberg
    on May 16th, 2009
    @ 9:24 am

    Funny stuff! The main message is an important one. I handed out wireless keyboards to my staff to use with their Smartboards and most are still in the box…
    I use GPS with my kids. I had one student walk into a wall, then back up and walk into the wall again because the cache he was looking for was 50m away, and it said to go north. We had a conversation about going around the wall…and estimating distance. We both learned a lot that day.


  2. @nbrach
    on May 16th, 2009
    @ 11:36 am

    I recall snow on the ground that day…
    and a sign at the end of the “dead-end” road that said “No Trespassing”.

    I also remember the need for someone to stand on the back bumper of the truck to provide traction while we turned around in the mud…to go back…not what the “British Lady” wanted, at all.

    And I remember we finally got to the school because your wife made you stop so she could walk up and knock on the front door of a house (the first one we found that had siding on it and a foundation other than concrete blocks) and ask directions. “Just right around this bend in the road, Honey”.

    In spite of the fact that @brachsmith was totally NOT amused, I had confidence that it would work out, and I knew someday this story would be a post on your blog. In your words, “You can’t make this stuff up.”


  3. Diane
    on May 17th, 2009
    @ 6:30 am

    The big question is-did you make the game?

    Michael Smith Reply:

    We did make the game. Although it was in the 2nd quarter when we arrived.


  4. Theresa M.
    on May 17th, 2009
    @ 4:28 pm

    Sounds so painfully familiar in many ways! Last week, I followed my GPS even though I knew where I was going! I managed to miss half of my daughter’s lacrosse game and got the dog car sick!!! I followed it out of curiosity to see where it was taking me!

    My district is installing interactive white boards in EVERY classroom at the HS level next year. Not sure what training is forthcoming, but I will put it to use. This follows giving all teachers laptops to use for school stuff. Many don’t use them (for the life of me, I can’t figure that one out) or have taken them home for their family to use.

    There’s much to be learned!


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