Digi Domi

Sharing my passion for technology and learning.

Please wait. Brain loading…

As I write this I have a headache (admittedly that could be influenced by the coffee, fizzy drink and tea I’ve drunk today) but it is also because of my brain being so overloaded.

My mum loves to tell me stories and anecdotes from the past, and one that gets rolled out every now and then due to my interests/ profession is that when she was growing up in the 1970’s there were classes at her secondary school that taught how to spend leisure time. The theory/ concern being that technology was going to make many tasks, previously performed by humans, automated and people would end up with so much free time on their hands they wouldn’t know what to do with it. Of course the irony is that quite the opposite has happened. With so much automated it simply leaves us free to work at a deeper level, and process more data. The work if anything, has increased in many areas and whole new jobs and industries have been created.

Back to my headache. Because of the increased ease of access to information there is often so much to process that it can feel like I need a bigger brain, or at least to be able to access more of the one I currently have. Perhaps a show of my geekdom, but often I feel like my brain is beach-balling* or occasionally doing an automated re-boot. This got me thinking about how we often seem to expect people to act like machines, despite the fact the very invention of many machines was to make life easier. And if this is affecting me, then what about those younger than me and future generations? I’m nearly 24, computers were around when I was growing up, and starting to be used more in schools. At primary school the whole class was encouraged to play a learning game called The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis. We had time to play in class, although we did have to have scheduled slots/ take turns as there were only about 5 computers for a class of 20. I also used to make cards/ invitations for special occasions using McZee (part of the Microsoft Home Kids package), I had a lot of fun in Imaginopolis! Other than that I’d occasional use Microsoft Encyclopedia or play Barbie Riding Club. By the time secondary school arrived we had all just survived Y2K and things were picking up. By the time I was 15 I had a MySpace account (despite the fact you had to be 18 back then, they didn’t ask for ID and thankfully I was good enough at maths to figure out when I needed to be born, a triumph of the education system in Jersey I guess), which then turned into a Facebook account when we decided that was ‘more mature’. My love and use of technology has flourished since then, to the point I wouldn’t be able to do much work without it and my social life would be rather dull.

As fun as my growth through technology was, it’s nothing compared to today’s children. My husband’s colleague was recently telling me about how his 3 year-old little boy uses their smart-phones all the time, this little boy is so used to modern technology he can;t comprehend screens that aren’t touch. He’ll stand there and try to swipe across the screen of a desktop computer or old portable games console with a puzzled look on his face. More than this is that if something doesn’t happen instantly in his mind it is downloading. So when his dad asks him what he wants for dinner, and he responses macaroni and cheese, he will then wonder into the kitchen, where his dad has put it on to cook, look at the microwave and ask, ‘daddy, is my dinner downloading?’ Apart from being adorable, this indicated to me that the technical mindset is increasing. Not that people are going to be better at coding/ programming or building technology in the future, although some will, but that people are increasingly expecting the world around them, including the people in it to act like machines.

I’m not trying to build a case for a SkyNet styled conspiracy or spread panic. The panic won’t come until it is too late to stop the machines. No, instead I am simply going to finish by reflecting on the possibility that machines will make possible the next stage of human evolution. That by allowing our brains to process more information they will facilitate a future where humans will evolve to use more of their brains. Perhaps at the next millennium they will look back on us and our tablet computers like we look back of cave-men and their fire.

*Beach-balling is a Mac reference to when the computer is processing, similar to the wheel or hour-glass in Windows.

Leave a comment »

The Education Debates

This morning it was recommended by my manager that I listen to The Education debates on BBC Radio 4. I was very pleased that I did, they were very interesting. Although a lot of the debate focused on Primary and Secondary school education, rather than HE, I felt there was still a lot of relevance to those of us working in HE. first of all because we have the vested interest that all of the students we deal with in HE will have come through a primary and secondary school.  But also because a lot of the debates, particularly in the 2nd episode were about how we should teach, and the roles of both social learning and learning technologies. As a specialist in learning technology I of course have a special passion here, the debate between traditional learning and learning with technology.

Of course my first point would be do we have to choose one or the other? Surely it can often be best to use a blended approach, balancing the benefits of traditional learning with the enhancements that can be offered by the right technology. This is another discussion I will save for another day but identifying the right technology is central. Often tutors will be put off because they will go, well I don’t see how a mobile phone could possibly help in seminar, well perhaps it can’t, but perhaps the electronic voting system could.

Moving back to the debates the first episode reminded me a lot of my time at Southampton Solent University (SSU). The debate between the classical subjects and vocational learning. Being a newer university, one of the former polytechnics, SSU does offer a lot of vocational and classical blended course. I choose to do my undergraduate in journalism at SSU because it had the vocational elements to it. After all, surely if the main purpose of education is to achieve a ‘better job’ than one would without it, vocational training and practical experience are essential. Again the purpose of education, especially HE is something I will save for another post.

If you haven’t yet done so I recommend you listen to the debates which can be found on the BBC iPlayer (links below).

Debate 1 – What should we teach?


Debate 2 – How should we teach?


Debate 3 – Who should teach?

Not yet available, Airs Wednesday 5th September 2012 at 8pm GMT on BBC Radio 4 (FM only)

Leave a comment »