A chance recommendation from the local GDG organizer (Thanks! Clive), meant that I had an invite to Google I/O. It was my first technical conference in more than 10 years. Going to it was like experiencing a different world for 2 days – a world where we were dined and wined, and pampered, and shown a glimpse of the ‘better’ technological future. Its a relief to be back to the real world.
Google put up a great show. There was lots of relevant information on how to promote my apps, small-group talks from google classroom and apps for families, many of whom I could talk to afterwards. They were nice people who listened to me ask and question and complain with the utmost patience. It was a really good show – just, not real.
One of the favorites of the show was the ‘cheap’ Cardboard Virtual Reality Headset. In reality, the cardboard was cheap, but the phone that powered it was anything but.
Every school must have one of these. Don’t you wish you had this when you were a kid?
– the Googlers told us. They even built a whole Google Expeditions system – take a trip to Mt. Everest without the danger of earthquakes, or one to Mars – in seconds. So, I sat down on a class with the teacher. We saw corals, and wave-rock and basalt formations in 5 minutes. And then, it stopped – technical difficulties, wi-fi is overloaded – and that is the reality of a real school. Here there was the best possible network money can buy, two techs to help, switch out batteries, reboot. What would happen in a real school? I was helping out at the Highline school district hackathon. They had chromebooks for every student. But, not enough bandwidth for everyone to connect. So, some students had to share. How would they ‘share’ a VR headset. I suppose a ‘better’ technology for learning must start somewhere. Perhaps in 5-10 years, this experiment will be worth it.
This year Google woke up to realize that ‘kids’ are a big market. Parents dote on their kids – I am one of them. Kids are the future consumers. They took all their people from Google Play for Education and put them on the Family Friendly Play Store. The same people who I was hoping would provide a solution for us to connect our learning software to the classroom – and solve real world classroom problems, were too busy selling us on our kids’ Favorite Disney Characters.
We make it easy for parents to find their kids’ favorite character. Don’t all parents wish they have this?
– Googlers asked us… and cajoled us developers to build shiny bright graphics and animations to keep kids mesmerized, and away from the real world. That is what Googlers believe parents stay up late worrying about.
Back in Seattle
It was only 2 hours flight, and 2 days of conference. But, I may as well have been to a parallel universe. That was a fantasy world.
As I stay up late every night building math manipulatives after the kids go to bed, just so they may understand, and learn (not just consume), and build a better future through technology and innovation, I begin to doubt if technology is the best future for them.
I know I’d rather live in the real world.