Monday, 27 June 2011

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Why the music festival should have been unplugged

Note: This post is not an anti-technology piece as it may appear. I’m simply suggesting, as I have before, that tech should be employed only when it is necessary and adds something to the student learning experience. I’m also aware that I previously argued that we should put this discussion to bed, but this experience was too perfect a representation of my beliefs to ignore. Yes, I’m a hypocrite...

In May I was lucky enough to attend an amazing event in Barcelona with loads of like-minded, interesting people. I was entertained, enriched and absorbed in a wonderful occasion, and I hope can go back next year. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the IATEFL Teacher Development SIG Unplugged Conference, but the Primavera Sound music festival. 

I’m a big music fan, you see, so nothing makes me happier than traipsing around from stage to stage, watching old favourites like Shellac, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and the Flaming Lips, as well as new favourites like Holy Ghost, tUnE-yArDs and El Guincho. The one downside of the festival was a technical one. The organisers had employed a fancy system for buying drinks, whereby you used a card with a QR code to pay. The card had to be preloaded from your registered credit card. To you that probably sounds ridiculously overcomplicated, but to be fair, the idea of not having to carry any money around with you at a music festival is quite enticing.

So it sounds like the organisers identified a need and had access to a rather cool new technology, and went for it. The problem was that they hadn’t taken two things into account. Firstly, we still had to carry money with us, because we had to get to the festival and back again, and we had to buy food at the stalls where they only accepted money. Secondly, there is already a perfectly good system in place that could have been employed with little fuss. It’s called cash.

Inevitably, the QR code system never worked and after a few hours the bars were accepting cold hard currency, as they did for the whole festival. The QR code system was really cool and an impressive idea, but it didn’t work and nobody needed it. And I couldn’t help but think of those who attended the unplugged conference in the same city a week before, and what they would have made of it all. I think they would have felt vindicated. I’m just glad the festival wasn’t entirely unplugged...


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