I remember movies with scores of people driving hover cars, wearing aluminum foil like it’s the only material left to make clothing, and using an electronic voice activator for just about everything, from toothpaste to opening their front doors.
This world has been crafted and envisioned for decades by curious minds who wonder what the future might hold. Although we are not all wearing space boots, our technological advancements are much closer to our perception of “the future” than we care to realize.
Case in point: Skype. Hundreds of millions of people have logged onto this popular route of communication.
People may use this technology to reconnect with friends at other universities and parents who live out of state, but now Skype is making its way into the classroom. Whether it is a good or bad thing has yet to be determined.
The Chronicle of Higher Education addresses the idea that professors can provide lectures with incredible guests who do not have to do anything except turn on a computer screen and answer questions by pupils who may be a couple hundred miles away. There is little preparation needed on behalf of the lecturer, yet their knowledge is so easily accessible to students that it would leave many people from only a few decades ago with their jaws on the floor in amazement of such advanced technology.
Also, with so many bad weather days that TCU has had lately, talk of “Skyping in” to a missed class does not seem too far-fetched. Students would be able to directly communicate with their professor, listen to a lecture as if they were there, and even make a presentation over the video conferencing application.
My only concern is how far this mode of instantaneous communication will take us. What if it became a slippery slope to not ever sitting in class? Day after day, students across the country would wake up, pull their computer on to their lap and “Skype in” for a lecture to their ‘Intro to Psychology’ class. Our world may become more like the universe in the movie “Wall-E” than we care to believe.
Face-to-face interaction is vital to our comprehension of a concept and to building relationships. Texting, Facebooking, and e-mailing have become quicker routes of information sharing, but we are missing out on significant amounts of context when all we get are black letters juxtaposed to a white background of an opened e-mail.
Similarly, we are seeing a secondhand version of the person who we are talking to on Skype. With only a pixilated image on a screen, being in a different environment than your conversation partner can affect your mood. Too many adjustments need to be made in order to get the full effect of traditional interaction. Since when could a normal lecture in class be bumped down a few notches in volume or blacked out for a few seconds of privacy?
Today’s technological advancements are simply awe-inspiring. Our only challenge is to maintain a healthy physical awareness of self as well as making the most of our rapidly modernizing world. Maybe someday we can achieve a balance between conventional communication and purposeful Skyping while eating freeze-dried astronaut food.