Keeping up with technology…or not

Keeping up with technology, particularly with a big family and one income is impossible. The pressures to do this, however, can be enormous and come not just from the kids themselves who see their friends with not only one, but several of the latest devices, but also from schools with many making it a mandatory requirement for starting high school to have an Apple device of some type. That they don’t specify what it has to be gives some scope I guess but it’s still hard to work out what they really need and can best manage.

I have three children with iphones. Peter, who also has an ipad mini which we bought him at the start of senior school, has an iphone 3G (really old technology but works fine as a phone and ipod). Both Isabelle and Brendan have an IPhone 3GS, pretty old techology I know, considering Apple’s just released the iphone 6. In a big family, sometimes you have to have what your parents can afford and make the best of it. All of these devices, apart from the Ipad mini, I bought second hand on Ebay and although they run an older operating system and can’t manage some apps, they seem to be ok for most things. Sometimes the kids complain but not often – I guess it’s a whole lot better than having nothing.

When Apple released the iphone 6, ‘in what has become a pop culture rite, Apple fans worldwide stood in line for hours, and days, to be among the first to snag the new phones Friday’ (Blair, 2014, par.3). The comment by one of those who began queueing on Thursday was, “I can’t resist it,” said David Hearne, 27, of Seaford, Del. “It’s amazing. It’s gonna be sexy.” This obsession with owning the latest technology whatever the price is hard for me to understand. I remember as a child, when the VCR first came out, my mum saying that there is always a segment of the population who will pay anything to have the latest thing and the market prices are set accordingly. For us, as a single parent family, it was always much later that we had the ‘latest’ technology in our home. I’m still the same. I’m happy to wait till the prices come down, or even pick something up second hand that someone else has moved on from if it does the job required. Sometimes my children are less than impressed by this.

An Apple store employee shows off the new iPhone 6 on Sept. 19 at the Eaton Center in Toronto.

An Apple store employee shows off the new iPhone 6 on Sept. 19 at the Eaton Center in Toronto. (Photo: Ryan Emberley, Invision for Apple, via AP)

A huge percentage of teenagers own smart phones, many on expensive plans. ‘While dad is walking around with a stone aged flip phone, his children are sporting the retail priced $600 gadgets that in reality they are too immature and irresponsible to take care of’ (Daniel, 2013. par.2) Not so in my house, where my children have second hand phones and a $10 a month pre-paid plan that doesn’t include internet access but seems to be plenty to meet their needs (phone calls and texts are so much cheaper on this type of plan – 11 c a minute rather than $2.30 or so a minute). They generally don’t run out of credit and seem to be able to contact me and their friends as much as they need to. They have to learn to be careful and manage their phones but I don’t actually think that’s a bad thing. I’m on a similar plan having just switched over from a phone carrier swallowed up by Vodaphone. I could have swapped over but the cheapest plan they had was $30 per month. We’ll see how we go with prepaid. If it turns out to be not enough, I’ll look around again but I actually think we’ll be fine.

I know my kids feel pressure to have more up-to-date technology and I’m sure it’s a struggle for them at times because for many teens and even pre-teens today, “the measure of success and popularity is often being based on who has the BEST or the most technological gadgets in their pocket” (Daniel, 2013, par. 3). And I guess they’d really like to have the latest technology, after all it’s a lot of fun and it’s great to be at the forefront, rather than waiting months or even years for the ‘latest’ technology.

I read another student’s blog (Shenfield, 2014) and was interested to see that even Steve Jobs had kept a tight rein on his childrens’ access to technology. When asked whether his kids loved the new ipad, he said, “they haven’t used it …We limit how much technology our kids use at home” (Shenfield, 2014, par.3). Reassuring to see we’re not the only mean parents in the world.


Blair, N. (2014, September 22). Millions snap up iphone 6 on opening weekend. USA Today. Retrieved from

Daniel, S. (2013).  Teens and Technology – Is Your Teen Keeping Up With The Joneses?  Professors House.  Retrieved from

Shenfield, R. (2014, September 16).  It’s Okay to Switch Off: Embracing Low Tech.  [Web log post]. Retrieved from


One thought on “Keeping up with technology…or not

  1. Thanks for your post, Alison. Reflecting on it took me back in time. Having started teaching in 2002, I began my career in a context of conversations about the value of devoting time and or money to the use of computers. Standard arguments circled around the themes of technology involving drains on tight budgets and the learning of skill-sets that were not life-skills, as they were not about fundamental knowledge, but were based on equipment that was continually being superseded. In some ways, the strength of this period was that it forced the development of questions and ongoing discussions around such topics as what actually constituted ‘enduring understandings’ and what teaching and learning options are most valid. The problem with this era is that it hasn’t ended yet. These discussions are ongoing.

    Fast-forward (a term in itself that doesn’t mean what it used to – to me it still involves the movement of a tape of some variety!) to 2014, and I find myself learning the ropes as a TL in a wealthy country in the GCC. When I say wealthy, new iPhone 6s here cost up to four times the price of those in the US (, and were owned by numerous students on the phone’s release date. Another reference point is that the privilege of selecting your own phone number here, from whatever is available, is priced according to repeated or consecutive digits, amongst other factors, with the most desirable combinations selling for thousands of USD$. Again, students here may have chosen such an option. For those of us with more modest incomes, relatively speaking, the pressure may have actually decreased in this context. Here, popular culture dictates distinct norms and expectations for different cultural groups. Generally, the more local or regional your point of origin, the more you will be expected to own and display, taking the spotlight off us expat’s to some degree, whilst highlighting the assumption that we don’t quite belong either.

    Another point that comes out of your post is the amount of sacrifice that is expected or associated with being the owner of the latest and greatest. The ‘phones vs thrones’ discussion ( gives an interesting perspective to this issue, but no resolution. This also is an ongoing discussion.

    I feel, in the end, that the discussion of all of the above points is a genuinely valuable pursuit. It is essential that we, as TLs can address our choices as we are increasingly forced to justify our roles, our pedagogical choices, our use of time, and the contents of our purchase orders, but each of these is also somewhat situation-specific, and needs to be treated that way. I guess, in that sense, evaluative thinking skills really are the currency of 21st Century learning.


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