Zen of Technology

Faster, better, smarter

I’m not a geek, but I married a geek. So, I may be more open to new technologies than a lot of former English majors. Still, for me, technology has to have a purpose. It can’t just be cool, though I like cool. I was one of the first people in my world at the National Cancer Institute to Blackberry—because it served a purpose. I could communicate faster, more responsively and better than before. I got an iPhone, because it worked better than other devices for syncing my calendar. We got a Kindle to read books on planes and an iPad, because it does a lot with a long charge. I read Wired, MIT’s Technology Review, Wall Street Journal and New York Times coverage of technology because I want to know what’s next. I’m interested in new technologies, but I’m not an evangelist about them. My questions usually relate to how this new thing will benefit people in public health and higher education.  (By the way, I paid for the Kindle and iPad personally.)

Kindles and iPads are changing the way lots of people think about reading. In the past, whenever Bernard and I talked about the Kindle, my parents looked at us with the look saved for, “There goes Bernard again.” (It’s warm and appreciative.) Today, one of their friends at Carolina Meadows walked up to us with a Kindle and started talking enthusiastically about it. Now, the Kindle was interesting to my mother. It was real. They could see and touch a Kindle. And it was carried by one of their friends. As we left Carolina Meadows, their friends were sitting on a couch, she reading on the Kindle, he reading a physical book. That’s the way it should be—more choices so people can experience books as they like them. Technology doesn’t just influence the young—we should lose those stereotypes.

Zen of technology

It’s easy to dismiss many applications and technologies as irrelevant to learning. That’s way oversimplified. I try to guard against becoming a naysayer toward the new; I hold the evidence standard to the new and old alike. I try to get comfortable with the new and not be afraid of it, even when I don’t totally understand it. It’s the exercise principle: Get comfortable with discomfort. It’s a mindset. There’s increasing evidence that for some students, for some types of learning and behaviors, gaming has a place. It’s a serious issue. One of our students, Liz Lyons, PhD, did her dissertation on gaming and diet/exercise.

Gaming and public health education

There’s a fascinating piece on gaming in Sunday’s Education Issue of the New York Times. The author says that we should teach our students to become producers of content. They’ll have to leave our programs able to write for peer-reviewed journals, websites, blogs and other channels.

“I must have been wearing the shocked expression of an old-guard English major, because Doyle tried to put a finer point on it. ‘We feel like we’re preparing these kids to be producers of media—whether they become graphic designers, video designers, journalists, publishers, communicators, bloggers, whatever,’ he said. ‘The goal is that they’re comfortable expressing themselves in any media, whether it’s video, audio, podcast, the written word, the spoken word, or the animated feature.’ He added: ‘Game design is the platform that we can hook them into because this is where they live. Video games are more important to them than film, than broadcast television, than journalism. This is their medium. Games are this generation’s rock and roll.'”

I wonder how we can get more people in the School looking at the role of gaming in our own education and how we will be ready for the next innovation and the one after, and how we can be the creators, not just consumers, of these educational innovations. The future is coming, and it’s going to look a lot different from our world today.

Happy Monday. Barbara

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  1. Liam O'Fallon

    Just stumbled across your blog. Very nice to read through your messages. Never realized, but should have guessed, that you are a techno geek! (grin) Your comments on the STEM education and gaming piece are very nice. How do you see the need for balance in society? While gaming definitely has its role to encourage youth to learn in an integrative fashion, they must still develop the skills and understanding to appreciate their natural surroundings. I suppose it is an age-old challenge…

    I look forward to reading more of your insights.


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