Not a cloud in sight
While it is true that you can’t take the sky from me, it’s also true that sometimes those skies are so blue that there’s no cloud. You can see forever – up to the moon and back.
We’ve had some blue skies recently in Addis …as all clouds went away when our internet connection disappeared. Something went wrong with the telecom’s router and the connection shut down for a little under 24 hours.
It was frustrating in school, not having access to the internet. Research had to be put on hold, news wasn’t available, etc. Our mail server had a different connection, so email came in and out …but web-based mail was offline.
But business went on as usual. Students collaborated, did work, uploaded their assignments to their teachers, etc. We use locally-hosted services for all our mission-critical tasks: email & collaboration, our virtual learning environment, e-portfolios, attendance and reporting, etc. We were more limited in what we can do with technology, but we weren’t stopped dead in our tracks.
That’s why we don’t rely on software-as-a-service systems. Sure, Google Apps for Education have some fantastic features, but when your connection goes down those features are worthless. That’s why we’re testing out our locally-hosted OwnCloud system.
And while it may be true that Ethiopia has more frequent connectivity losses than the US or European countries, I do know that connectivity can be a problem anywhere. Try running your Chromebook in rural USA. And even giants like Google or Amazon have periodic outages.
Besides, there are plenty of high-powered tasks that people can do using technology without being connected to the internet: edit a video, graph data, build a presentation, design graphics, write a program, etc. …and let’s not forget that communication and collaboration can happen amongst people sitting in the same room. And if you want to reach out further, try another classroom in a different grade. There are plenty of non-tech 21st century learning opportunities!
At the end of the day, it all boils down to perspective. A loss in connectivity could be a disaster. Or it could be an opportunity. At worst, it might just be a minor inconvenience, forcing to you to focus on something you weren’t intending. It all boils down to how you deal with unexpected occurrences and how resilient you are.
And isn’t that a perfect 21st century skill to cultivate?
I wrote the above around 5 p.m. today. Now, around 10p.m. I see this tweet:
“A loss in connectivity could be a disaster. Or it could be an opportunity. At worst, it might just be a minor inconvenience.”
In Ethiopia it’s often all three at once depending on what one is trying to do. As for “at worst,” I think “minor inconvenience” is Panglossian. As for opportunity, I got a lot of quality work done this morning when I couldn’t distract myself with internet connectivity.
OK. I guess I can cop to being Panglossian there. But I will also.be a little Cromwellian and resolutely stand by my underlying point: that many people completely overreact to modern headaches. An internet cut, like a power cut, is rarely a true disaster. On the contrary, I think it does us good to have occasional setbacks – it forces us to rethink assumptions and seek alternatives. I also think that living and working in an environment like ours where we can’ t take such conveniences completely for granted makes us a little more self-reliant and resourceful.
And, yes: cut off from such elements as the web does also remove distractions as well as reduce resources. Like most things, 24/7 internet access can be a double-edged sword.