|Living life with our heads in the Cloud
Author: Richard Singleton
William Albrecht (1879-1945) is a name that doesn’t grab the headlines like a Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. Albrecht didn’t create software empires, must-have gadgets or social media revolutions. Rather, in 1906, Albrecht opened the Western Tablet Company and introduced the world to the Big Chief Tablet.
For nearly a hundred years, millions of students used the iconic paper tablet to do their reading, writing and arithmetic. That was when having your head in the cloud meant you were an inattentive dreamer; that was then. Now, we live in a world where the only two people on the planet who would try to sell a paper product with a potentially insensitive name like Big Chief would be Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute – a world where having your head in the Cloud is a good thing – since the Cloud is the trendy name preferred for the internet these days. So clouds have lost their exclusive naming rights and paper tablets have been asked to take their show on the road. It’s the ultimate answer to the question popularized at the grocery store – paper or plastic?
Plastic has clearly won. As any grade-schooler these days can tell you, a tablet is not a large ruled, saddle stitched booklet. Rather, it’s a phenomenon; it’s a connection to the Cloud; it’s a way to be connected to the world, the web, the social network and all points in between. And, of course, it’s a clearinghouse for the ubiquitous sessions of Angry Birds that every toddler, teen, soccer mom and boardroom executive seem powerless to resist.
Just this past holiday season, over 13 million iPads were sold and a whopping six million Kindle Fires passed from the warehouses of Amazon.com into living rooms, backpacks and backseats across the world. Two of them found their way into my house. And, oh yes, it’s not just a world where tablet and cloud have new definitions. With the largest new entry sales of any tablet computer in history, it’s clearly a world where Amazon doesn’t mean a massive, piranha-infested river in South America. We can only be grateful that the Kindle Fire’s entry level tablet competition, the Barnes & Noble Nook, isn’t the Barnes & Noble Nile or all of us geographically challenged folks would be up the river without a “pad”dle (bahdum tish).
The pace of tablet production, development and expansion is so blindingly fast that by the time you read this article, there will likely be a whole new crop of devices for your family to choose from, including an iPad 3.
At least one person, however, promises that this will be his last iPad line to stand in for a while. John C. Dvorak at spartdevicecentral.com believes that tablets – especially the iPad — may have a built-in fatal flaw. Namely, that they do everything you want them to do without needing to buy another one for a long time. Perhaps Dvorak is too clever by half, however, because he promises in his article, “After the iPad 3, What Will Be?” that he won’t be in line for the iPad 4. Did he say the same thing about the first and second generation iPad? Regardless, the reality is in and you and your family are likely to be tablet-toting families for years and years to come (be warned, however, Google is creating wearable computing devices in the form of sunglasses that project all your most addictive Cloud content right in front of your face.
Hmm…wearing sunglasses to see into the cloud. I would love to be in the marketing meetings!).
So, with the world and words taking on new meaning, with the Cloud and the tablet becoming synonymous with portable, constantly connected computing, what does it mean for you, for your kids and for your daily life?
SWparents.com recently posted “7 Keys to Keeping Your Kids Technology-Healthy.” One of the keys was particularly important, in my view: developing a media plan. Specifically, “Create a media plan for each child that includes both limits and the benefits of growth opportunities: better family relationships, socialization, values education and education enrichment.” I like that.
As a professional counselor and more importantly, as a parent, I like the idea of a plan. I love that it is tailored to fit each child, to address his or her uniqueness. As you who have read my articles know, I’m a champion of limits, so that part is music to my ears. Also, there are key components foundational to healthy developmental experiences such as addressing the need to socialize, ensuring that technology has a heavy education component and being clear about what values you have as a family.
You and your children will have your heads in the Cloud from now on. And, ironically, that’s a good thing. The key is that you not have your heads in the clouds at the same time. That simple one letter “s” on the cloud in that second sentence is so important. Having the vast information of the Internet at your fingertips is an important, exciting reality, but it’s so vital that we adults not be naïve, that we not take maturity, responsibility and values for granted.
Our toddlers can quickly learn how to matriculate from one level of Angry Birds to another as we wait in the checkout line at the grocery store or as we sit in rush hour traffic, but only we adults can help our kids put down the technology, sink their feet into the fresh spring grass, breathe in the great outdoors, truly look into the real clouds in the real sky and let our inspired imaginations run wild with life and all its uninhibited, unplugged, un-pixilated beauty.
Richard Singleton, MACE, MAMFC, LPC, is the Executive Director at STARRY in Round Rock.