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Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 10.1.2009

School Gadgetry

Contributing to delinquency

By Shaun O’Ddell

Thanks to T.V. news specials and popular films based on college life, parents are well aware of the kinds of changes their child will undergo in the nearly absolute freedom college provides. A parent's imagination may elicit visions of rampant orgies and beer-swilling frenzy that could make Bacchus weep with joy. But what parents may not be aware of is their contribution to the delinquency of their own children through the gadgets they give them before they are sent off in the fall. So here, for the privilege of students and parents alike, are the intended and actual uses of school gadgetry.

Desktop computers have been pretty standard for college students for about a decade and laptops have gained ground as the dominant computer option. But with the advent of netbooks, the ultra portable laptops with 7- to 10-inch screens, bringing computers to class seems like a much more viable option to a college student already hauling 45 pounds of books. These mini-computers seem innocuous enough; perfect for note-taking during class and some web browsing for information to supplement lectures.

But in reality a quick lap of a lecture hall during class would reveal what students are really focusing on: social networking and the occasional game of Minesweeper/solitaire. A trip to the back of a college classroom will show students searching Facebook to figure out the identity of that blonde sitting in the first row and quickly switching their solitaire games from three-card draw to one out of frustration. For up to 10 hours of time-wasting on a single battery charge, the ASUS EeePC 1005HA can be had at the UO's Digital Duck Store for $350.

And computers aren't the only tech that's expected to gain presence in lecture halls. The new Pulse Smartpen from Livescribe is a pen that uses special microdot (not the Woodstock kind) paper to track pen motions and record them into a digital format directly to the pen. The pen can then record audio while simultaneously recording pen strokes, creating easily accessible audio notes to refer back to later by clicking on words written on the page. All this information can also be loaded onto a computer and placed in a database to be shared on the Internet with other Pulse Smartpen users.

Although this gadget sounds completely academic, be assured that hours will be wasted writing on passed-out college party-goers to see if the pen will digitally track movement using freckles. Also, these recording pens are likely to capture hours of drunken laughter and shouting as people commit their crazy night out to digital record. But these pens aren't cheap. At $129.95, these are expensive writing tools that could just end up as toys.

Students sometimes think they are clever for listening to music while in class without realizing how mad that can make professors. A company called Sensorcom makes what they call Microbuds Isolation Earphones (http://earplugstore.stores.yahoo.net/semi.html). These over-the-ear headphones come in black and beige and can easily be hidden by long hair or a hat. Although these headphones are not designed for intense listening sessions of intricate musical themes, they will do justice to the one-thousandth replay of “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” while sitting in lecture.

Digital cameras are another gadget that seem like a good idea when sending kids away to school. The obvious intent for digital cameras, especially some of the smaller pocket models, is to grab snapshots of friends and wholesome activities to bring home to the parents. Anybody with a little imagination can conjure up exactly the kinds of images that students will post on the Internet, only to get dragged home by their parents for doing activities that are illegal in all 50 states and thereby ending any hopes of a career in politics. The obvious solution to this predicament is sending the student to school with a 20-pound antique bellows camera that requires a suitcase just to keep all the parts together.

Finally, cell phones have become the bane of drunken technophiles on campuses all over. Anybody familiar with the website http://textsfromlastnight.com will know about the poorly-executed text messages sent with a single errant slip of the finger. Everything from “booty calls” sent to cousins to requests for marijuana sent to mothers gets posted on the site. Changing a phone owner's cellular plan to one without text messaging might be the best option, especially if they are expecting to keep drinking well past Taco Bell's open hours.

 

 

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School Gadgetry Contributing to delinquency