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Computers, Coffee and Comedy. Steve Dotto addresses participants at HLN 2001
By: Sarah King, Ascension Collegiate, Bay Roberts, NF

SteveOn the first night of STEM~Net’s 6th annual Hook Line and Net Conference, with the theme Receiving the World, Steve Dotto appeared for the second year in a row as the keynote speaker. Brian Mosher, a media teacher at Gander Collegiate introduced Dotto calling him “ favourite person” and describing him as “ the man who combined coffee and computers and for that I will respect him for the rest of my life... and I’m gonna live to be older than Harvey [Weir]."

Steve opened his talk with the words “Small town Canada is the best we have to offer”, easily drawing in his audience of teachers and students from all across Newfoundland. We can certainly be best described as “small town”.

He combined the elements of comedy and computers effortlessly, opening with the story of the “I love you virus”. Apparently, after an acquaintance changed jobs, she e-mailed Dotto her new ‘contact information’. All the entries in her address book received this email. An ex-boyfriend, who was obviously not very computer-literate, e-mailed her back, in hopes they could rekindle their romance, with details of a previous romantic tryst. He made only one mistake. He clicked the ‘reply all’ button. Therefore, all entries in Dotto’s colleague’s address book received the details of their romantic escapades. Everyone this colleague knew, including Aunt Mildred, the nun from Saskatchewan received this email. Even her current boyfriend received all the juicy details. Thus, Dotto proved his point, “technology is a double edged sword”, and “ for every time technology gives us something, it also takes [the equivalent] away”.

Dotto addressed the issue of “brain drain”, that is, the relocation of highly qualified professionals to bigger, more powerful institutions. He said “The reason people are leaving is opportunity”. He explained, people don’t have the opportunities here that bigger centres can offer. What we need to do, he advises, is to make the opportunities here. Once a Newfoundlander, always a Newfoundlander, and if the opportunities were there for careers in the IT sector in their community or region, they would be more than willing, I can bet, to re-relocate back to Newfoundland in order to take advantage of those opportunities.

He also covered the concern of incorporating technology into the curriculum. As the host of both Dotto’s Data Café and Dotto on Data, he receives numerous requests from school council members asking for his support, and help, in raising money to outfit their schools with technology. He says to them, “I don’t wanna see computer labs” . Instead, he counsels, "we should be making sure that there is a computer on every teacher’s desk. They’re the ones who are working. In large corporations, what do we do for our employees? We buy them computers! Why should teachers be left out of this privilege. They’re the ones who are just doing their job."

Dotto ended his section on education and computers with his favourite quote on the issue of education and the integration of technology into the curriculum. “We can’t spend too much money on education.” This comes from former education minister John Manley, as told to Dotto on his television program, Dotto’s Data Café in 1999. Mixed in with the serious talk and genuine discussion, Dotto also found the time to insult his audience, calling us, among other things, “clones”, “communists”, and “ugly”. He ‘worshiped’ online banks, calling them “convenient” while informing us how to bank efficiently and not give money away to the “bloodsucking credit card companies.”

Dotto also addressed the issue of online security, commenting first on the online auction craze, started by eBay. He said “I’m not so concerned about online security [when it comes to auctions]. However, he says there are issues concerning online security that need to be addressed, particularly in the form of protecting children from pornography, which is so readily available on the Internet these days. He said the best way to prevent children from accessing porn is to be informed yourself about the tactics used by Internet porn sites to “lure” in people.

For example, near names/good names. The website for the U.S. White House There is another website with a similar address that is a porn site. As well, there is another porn site with a name similar to the NASA website, which is . Other ways to keep kids from accessing porn are keeping the family computer in a public place in the house, where children’s movements on the Net can be monitored. Also, he says, he doesn’t let his own kids access material through “raw search engines”. Instead, he counsels them through search engines such as Google and Yahoo!, which have built-in screening features.

Steve also brought his ‘toychest’ of goodies, his latest and greatest gadgets. Included within was: an MP3 player small enough to fit in any pocket, a WAP (wireless application protocol) cell phone and a digital camera, which Dotto described as “... so advanced, you can set everything to manual!”

The session was a complete success. Everyone enjoyed Dotto’s casual manner of speaking and approach to technology as the way of not only the future, but as the connection between the past and present as well. As the Honourable Beaton Tulk said at the opening of the address “In Newfoundland and Labrador, we are truly ‘Receiving the World’.

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