If we fast forward about 100 years we can see the progress that has been made in telecommunications since the time of this episode's setting. Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham commented on the installation of the telephone by saying, "First electricity, now telephones. Sometimes I feel as if I were living in an H.G. Wells novel."
Just as Violet was feeling the world around her change with these new advancements, many teachers, and well, people feel reluctant to embrace these new technologies. What purpose do they serve? Is this just technology for the sake of technology? Does it make anything better? Does it make anything worse? What can it actually accomplish that I could not do without it?
These are all really important questions to ask when implementing/investing in new technologies. In our class we visited with an actual Yellowstone Forest Ranger. It cost her and us nothing but time. We used Skype to learn about what she does and where she is. It was a video call, so we could see her and she could see us. We communicated live with a person in a forest. We also saw Old Faithful erupt in real time- all from a computer lab. If we step back and consider what that is and how it happens, it's not difficult to see how amazing these tools are. My class can visit a National Forest and I don't even have to obtain permission slips or make overnight accommodations. Does this mean that districts and institutions should stop investing in field trips? I don't think so. Visiting actual places and people are very valuable experiences and should absolutely continue. Virtual field trips don't replace these. They serve a different purpose. Rather than only reading about people and places, they can interact, discover, and ask questions that may not be answered in a text. The more opportunity the students can interact with content, the more valuable the experience and knowledge becomes to them.
I'm glad to live in a time where video conferencing with a forest ranger is so doable. Appropriate application of these technologies not only provides students with authentic experiences with people who live far away, but also models how these communicative tools can be used to connect us with one another. Science fiction always presents us with the social cautions of progress, but I think we can prepare ourselves and our students for potential problems if they become fluent users of technology in their schooling.