old school meets new school

How quickly things change…

Back in my school days (which were that long ago) cell phones only existed in movies, we had to use the Dewie-decimal system in the library (aaaaahhhh), I got my first computer and information was a premium.

Today kids have iPads, we can video chat with people 3000 miles away (for free?!), information is free and accessible practically anywhere and everywhere (I remember hearing a story of a guy in a desert whipping out his smartphone to check the going price of certain goods today).

A lot’s changed but with such change we tend to forget just how powerful some of our old tools can be.

Take the abacus. I remember finding one in my house as a kid and asked my parents what it was. The name intrigued me so I asked them to show me how to use it, their answer — they couldn’t, they didn’t know how. So that was that.

Fast forward 34 years or so and here in Japan it’s still possible to take abacus class. And let me tell you, the kids that do are GOOD.

I’ve always considered myself fast at math but when I saw the kids whipping through math problems using their abacus I couldn’t help but be impressed. In fact, I can even tell which kids have studied abacus here because they seem to develop a certain speed at doing mental math that most other kids never acquire.

Too many people today focus on the latest and greatest gadget as being the be all and end all to all our problems when I have found it to be just the opposite.

Let me explain: Take the iPad. It’s a fabulous tool that both kids and adults can use with so many apps that it will make your head spin (and in case you’re wondering, it even has an abacus app), the games highly addictive and many of them absolutely FREE. What’s not to love about it?

Well, let’s start off with something I just mentioned, did you catch it?

The key phrase is “highly addictive.” If we all used our iPads to better our lives by improving our skills, managing our schedule and writing our future novels on it would be great, but most of us don’t. I remember reading somewhere that 71% of iPad users use it to play games, whereas only 20% use it for work.

The other big problem is that it gets people away from old technology; tech that has worked so well for us. I’m talking old school stuff. Pens and pencils, books and good old fashioned board games.

Now before you get upset at me, you must understand that I’m a big tech guy.

BUT I realize that playing a boardgame on a computer screen with people all over the world just isn’t the same as playing that same boardgame at the dinner table with your family.

There’s something magical about sitting down with a group of friends or your family and rolling the dice, moving the pieces and interacting with them.

Which is precisely why I wanted to write a post today.

My son is getting older and his desire to play Mario Cart will only grow thanks to his classmates and friends. He already loves TV but I consider that his language center.

As soon as my son is old enough to play board games and understand rules we will dedicate one night a week to GAME NIGHT because I want him to understand the pros and cons of both worlds.

He’ll get enough new tech at school but just as swings and merry-go-rounds will never be replaced by a Nintendo cartridge, it’s up to me to show him the value of using old tech.

Go into any college today and nearly every student is typing out notes on their tablet or laptop. There’s not a pen in sight.

But pens and pencils offer us something that computers can’t — the activation of our senses.

Putting pen to paper requires much a much different skill set to simply tapping keys on a screen.

Try writing a book, versus typing one and you’ll understand. Writing activates our memory because with each stroke of our pen we must think about just what words we are writing and the meaning they contain.

Now to be fair, tech has its place.

It’s fast, easy to access and allows for easy manipulation and design. That’s precisely why I have migrated to Google Docs as of late. Microsoft Word and Pages are still my programs of choice when it comes to information storage. However, as my businesses have grown I have found the need to access the same documents in numerous places and Google Docs is just awesome for that. And considering it costs NOTHING, it’s a winner in my book.

I have a funny feeling that with a short period of time it will become my go-to office system simply because of its ease of access.

Tech isn’t dead, not by a long shot. But neither are pens and pencils either. The same goes for the abacus as well as boardgames.

The point is technology is great but only when used effectively which means WE, the users, need to be capable of getting the most out of our machines and to so, we need to think old school.

Like most things in life, it’s not one or the other. It’s the combination of old and new that is the winning team.

Adrian Shepherd

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