Thursday, January 26, 2012

Will that gadget help children learn?

As the resident geek among many of my friends and family, I hold sometimes contrarian opinions about the role that technology plays -- or should play -- in our lives. One topic that we debate fairly often is the role technology plays in education. I personally think that it will help neutralize the disparity in public education resources that varies zip code by zip code, but I worry that access won't universal enough.

Turns out that Americans are fairly split in their opinions about this. A new survey of about 1,145 U.S. adults by Poll Position found that 47 percent of Americans believe that technologies such as e-readers, media tablets, smartphones and other electronic devices will have a positive impact on education. About 33 percent of respondents, though, think they will have a negative impact, and another 21 percent have no opinion. So, we have a long way to go before we will realize the potential of technology in the education climate.

By the way, the survey didn't specify whether the technology would be used in elementary schools or higher education. It simply asked about technology's role in "educational development for youth in America."

Age and gender played a role in the survey respondents. Just 35 percent of the respondents aged 65 or older, for example, thought that technology would have a positive role. Men were slightly more inclined to feel positive about technology: approximately 49 percent of the men foresaw a positive impact, while 47 percent of women thought technology would have a positive effect.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Text While Driving, Lose Your License

OK, so I haven't heard about any state taking a measure this extreme yet to punish those caught texting on their smart phone or mobile device behind the wheel. But a new survey by Poll Position suggests that at least half of Americans think that losing your license for texting is a justifiable sentence for those who just can't keep their fingers to themselves while driving.

The survey, which reflected the opinions of about 1,100 registered voters, was conducted in early January 2012.

Half of those responding agreed that people caught texting while driving should use their driver's license for some period of time.

Age was a big factor in the responses, while younger respondents far more lenient.

In fact, 52 percent of them were not in favor of the license loss measure. Among those 65 years of age and older, 67 percent said you SHOULD lose your license for a period of time.

We haven't heard the last of this issue yet, especially with the National Transportation Safety Board's proclamation in mid-December 2011 that there should be a ban on driver use of portable electronic devices.

Personally, I think I'm in favor of such a measure, although I have absolutely been guilty of this behavior while at stop signs and such. Then again, is it any different when you lean over to change the radio station or to poke an address into your global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver or when you smoke a cigarette while driving (which I have seen, I kid you not). This one will be debated a long time before anything happens. Meanwhile, all we can really do is plead for common sense.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Facebook Doesn't Cause Divorces, People Do

Much has been made this week about a revelation by U.K. divorce lawyers Divorce Online that "finds" Facebook behavior was named in about one-third of petitions filed in 2011.

"Facebook flirting causes one in three divorces," trumpets the headline in Forbes.

This sort of revelation isn't new, of course. Last March, the Guardian cited a 2010 survey by the American Academy of Matriomonial Lawyers suggesting that a majority of divorce cases use social networking posts, messages or comments as evidence.

I have even heard friends comment that Facebook is "causing" relationship problems.

To that I say, people cause divorces, not computers. We've got to stop blaming the medium for the fact that people aren't grown-up enough to work through their problems. Yes, I am sure that social networks exacerbate problems that people already have. Perhaps they even encourage emotional affairs. They certainly make it easier to prove emotional infidelity.

But if a marriage is fundamentally sound in the first place, Facebook is about as harmless as your average neighborhood cocktail party.