For a number of years I’ve been conducting dictionary presentations with third graders. There’s a point at which I ask the kids, “What do we do if we come to a word we don’t know?”
Historically, the kids have pretty much unanimously replied, “Look it up!” (The pile of dictionaries behind me is probably a clue that helps them with the answer.)
Well, this year I was a bit surprised to hear a few kids say, “Ask somebody!” This in spite of the prominent pile of dictionaries.
And then today I learn about a project whereby Amazon.com has hired some folks from Quorus–a service that is adding a “social dimension” to online shopping. Say you are shopping for a gift and are having trouble deciding. The Quorus program would allow you to “discuss” the purchase (online) with other members of the family both in real time (chat) and offline.
Imagine being able to ask all of your friends online, “Will these pants make my butt look big?”
As if to reaffirm this trend, when I was getting instruction regarding my newly aquired SmartPhone, the representative pointed out that “the best thing to do when you are looking at an ‘ap’ is to see what the reviews (other people) have said about it.” Yep, that sounds like “ask somebody” to me! Instead of researching the developer and the features of the ap, I’m supposed to count stars I guess. (Actually, I do read reviews–but that’s only one component of the research.)
Surely we could spend days discussing the ramifications of this trend. I’ll bet if we involved Madam DeFarge she’d opine, “It’s the best of times; it’s the worst of times.”
My relationship with technology is at times tenuous, although I confess I have personified my GPS and will occasionally argue with her, but often rely on her. “Greta says that I’ll be arriving in 45 minutes…” In practice, I’ve asked Greta (her last name is Garmin) how long the trip will take. So far, I remain convinced I’m still smarter than she is.
Let’s set aside the question of whether or not this is all good stuff. (Personally, I like seeing kids looking up things in the dictionary instead of asking somebody. I also still have arguments with Greta when she tries to make me take a turn that doesn’t make sense. Suffice it to say, asking somebody is not a substitute for using our brains.)
One of the questions this does raise… Where are we going to learn the social (media) graces? To wit, if I bump into you at the bank in Dover Foxcroft, I’m probably not going to show you a picture of what I had for breakfast. For that matter, if you invite me to lunch, I’m probably not going to whip out my (yet unnamed) SmartPhone to ask people what looks good on the menu.
Don’t say, “I’m not sure, let me ask somebody.”