Saturday, March 14, 2009

Really REALLY instant messaging...

As a college prof, I have been privy first-hand to the change in adoption of new technology by young people. Every year I observe or ask about such things as cellphone and laptop ownership, use of social networking tools and the average number of texts students send daily. This has been a remarkable experiment in witnessing the explosion of technology use. I can't think of any other phenomenon that has seen such exponential growth, and which has become so ubiquitous, so quickly. Students refuse to turn off their phones - placating me by setting them to vibrate - because of the delay in receiving messages after the phones are turned back on. My tired joke to them is that if anyone is expecting to be called into surgery to operate, they can leave them on. Let's be honest; most are receiving messages from friends asking such vital questions as, "What's up?". Anyone who works with teens, or shares their home with teens, knows what I am talking about. The rest of you have heard the stories. I can't convey how rapid the change has been. I'm talking about going from one school year to the next and seeing completely different uptake in constant use of new tech. They are amazingly adaptable (and sadly, unquestioning about how much of this they really need, what the real effects are, and what on earth they are constantly distracting themselves from).

But this week I really saw the future of this technology. Imagine this scenario: I was walking up to my class with my Blackberry, something I don't normally bring to class, but which I needed because of kids at home alone, (excuse the rationalizing aside). On my way up the stairs, I received a text from  a part-time teacher I mentor, asking about a student who needed to be accommodated for a test. I replied back that this student had not given enough notice. Full stop. When I walked into class, I saw the student sitting there with her laptop open.  I mentioned to her that she would not be accommodated and she replied with utter surprise that she had JUST emailed the other teacher, and how on earth did I know?

The humour of startling students with their own technology is one thing. But it really made me think about the future of such technologies as texting, IM, and social tools like Twitter. Great science fiction is all about extending current realities to their logical next steps, sometimes many steps beyond. The natural next step of these devices is wearing and implantation. Scoff if you will, but I'd bet on it. The "molar cell" will read our thoughts, and ask our permission (hopefully!) to transmit. Telepathy is the next gen Blackberry!

I'm not being facetious. Instant communication, anywhere, any time, is here. Take it en masse with something like Twitter and hold on for the ride!!