When was the pen-drive invented?

I was sitting down checking my mail and reading my RSS feeds when my daughter asked, “So mom, when was the pen drive first invented?”  I did a quick memory scan and remembered the first time I came across the thing was around 2000 during a brief stint at Technology Park Malaysia as a content writer/ research assistant. I’m not a very ‘techie’ person so I’m definitely not an early adopter of software or hardware. It must’ve been in common use in KL by 2000 because it wasn’t uncommon to see a pendrive dangling alongside a keycard / identity tag when out for lunch.

Then my daughter asks, “So why in 2005 when I was in school, they asked us how many diskettes we wanted? Why couldn’t they just ask who had a pen-drive and to bring that?” – Good question. Perhaps their school computers didn’t have a USD drive, erm, or they didn’t know such a thing existed?????

Then she asked, “If technology can be used in learning, why didn’t they allow us to bring our digital cameras to record the talk at USM?” (on mind-mapping and how learning happens.)

I suppose all my blogging on education and the push for technology has awakened in her a sense of lost opportunities. She could’ve taken pictures on her USM trip, made an electronic scrapbook, put it on Flickr, made a youtube video on mindmapping, put it on a blog, use it with her friends on voicethread, etc etc. I think she started realizing how much of the experience was lost because she couldn’t use the tools available to her to capture her memories and extract the maximum value out of the trip by reflecting, collaging and writing on them.

The typical excuse teachers make are that cellphones, cameras could get stolen. Since when did teachers have to play detectives? Parents pay for those devices and we don’t expect other people to be responsible for our children’s stuff. If we trust our children with it, why can’t teachers? And if it gets stolen, it serves as a useful lesson to discuss the motivations of stealing, not waste time conducting “spot checks”. In the real world, things get stolen all the time. So why should that be an excuse (an apparent risk of losing it) become an excuse to prevent children from utilizing the tools that enhance their experiencing of life in meaningful ways?

Another argument is that they don’t want students to ‘flaunt’ their wealth in front of others. Just take a step outside of the school gates and you see Benz and BMWs alongside the schoolbus and scooters. That argument only serves to illustrate how schools fail in their attempt to teach anything about the world. I would address economic inequality by illustrating the factors behind wealth-creation. But that’s exactly the sort of thinking that made me incapable of teaching in schools : I like to teach people how to empower themselves in the real world.

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