In their 1973 hit single, Steely Dan declared “I’m never going back to my old school.”
In 2019, as schools open for a new year, members of the Greater Olean community whose school days are behind them had a common answer when asked to name something that today’s students have that they wish they had when they were back in the classroom.
“I would say all of the technology that they get to use, everything from cellphones, to iPad to laptops,” Karen Warner of Portville said. “They are able to use all of these things to get information, and it is in a much faster and easier way.”
“One thing I wish that I had in school that today’s kids have is the technology, for example, a MacBook, or a Chromebook or an iPad that they have the ability to take between school and home” added Annie Shumway, who manages the Olean store Maurices. “When I was in school, we weren’t allowed to take anything home. We did not have personal computers so to be able to have one piece of technology, a device you could take from home to school to complete your work would have been really helpful compared to what I actually had with just books.”
Thomas Valentine, a St. Bonaventure University student from Syracuse who has earned a degree from Onondaga Community College, wishes the databases and resources that grade school students use for class projects had been available to him when he was younger.
"I feel like they're valuable for any research paper,” he said. “They make your sources more credible. It would've been very beneficial to use.”
Some individuals who lauded the advantages technology provides to today’s students voiced concerns about the impact of electronic devices.
“I have mixed emotions about it,” Cynthia Smith, co-owner and park director of Rock City Park in Olean, said. “It does makes it much easier to do their homework, but the social contact has definitely taken a hit from it. Even with the adults, it has taken a hit.”
“The technology they have today is better. It makes things simpler here, and it works that way,” Rose Crisafulli, an Allegany resident who works at Sports Locker in Olean, said. “The downside, though, is when I hire people here, their communication skills are not good. Just to say hi to somebody or have a conversation with somebody just doesn't happen anymore."
Others said technology is not the only advantage that was not available to them.
“The anti-bullying system would be another one,” Fred Cramer, an Allegany resident and part owner of the Simply Sinful ice cream shop in Allegany, said. “When we were kids, they didn’t take care of that. Now they’re right on top of it, real strict with it. I’m really proud of that, what they do now.”
“They seem to do a lot more to prepare them for college than when I was there,” Tony James, who lives in Allegany and works at Game Stop in Olean said. “When I was there it was: See your guidance counselor, take a test and apply. Now they do college nights, tours, college fairs and have people from the college come in and talk to students. They have nights now for first-time parents of kids going to college. Allegany has a FAFSA night where the school brings in a financial aid person from Bona’s, and they explain financial aid more in depth.”
Kathryn Cummings, a lifelong resident of Friendship, said she wished her generation had more technology and better transportation.
“They’re able to see so much more of the world,” she said. “I mean, going to Olean was a big deal when I was growing up. And now we don’t think anything of it to go visit Jer (her son) in Rochester and come home in the same evening.”
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