Category Archives: Technological World

Dealing With the Stress of Living in a High-Tech World

As school approaches, I’m reminding myself not to get thrown back into the chaos of being constantly plugged in. It has taken me two months to get back to paying single-focused attention to the events going on around me. In July, my idea of unwinding meant surfing the net and answering messages while watching TV. By the time I got to the cottage we rent every summer, I couldn’t even allow myself to just sit on the beach and enjoy watching my children, the waves, or absorb some sunshine. That’s even without a signal going to my cell phone. I had to read book after book, fiction and non-fiction, to focus my wandering mind. I took walks every morning and night to calm my nerves. By mid-August my heart palpitations had finally calmed down.

Now I look to another busy year of teaching Communications Technology to high school students and teacher candidates, working towards the paperless classroom, and continuing my research on teens and technology, and I know I must find good and efficient daily coping methods. While filming a documentary for my Masters I talked about stress and technology with Dr. David E. Meyer of the University of Michigan and with Linda Stone, former executive of Apple and Microsoft. I put together a short video on how stress builds and what it does to us, as well as coping methods.

Dealing With the Stress of Living in a High-Tech World
Dr. David E Meyer and Linda Stone

Linda Stone and David Meyer on Living in a Fast-Paced Technological World

While shooting for my documentary on teens and texting, I had the opportunity to fly out and meet former senior executive of both Apple and Microsoft, Linda Stone. Linda is a well-known and respected leader when it comes to talking about technology and managing attention in a fast-paced world. Her articles have appeared in the Huffington Post, the New York Times, The Economist, The Boston Globe, and the Harvard Business Review. She is also a speaker at corporate conferences.

Here are some clips from the interview. Linda talks about continuous partial attention and multi-tasking, email apnea, as well as uni-focus and managing attention.

Dealing With Email Apnea

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Continuous Partial Attention

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Unifocus and the Yearning for Less Multi-tasking

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Contemplating Quality of Life

Music Albums: Down in a “Blaze of Glory”

 

Jon Bon Jovi told the London Sunday Times magazine that iPods and other digital mediums have destroyed the business, saying, “Kids today have missed the whole experience of putting the headphones on, turning it up to 10, holding the jacket, closing their eyes and getting lost in an album; and the beauty of taking your allowance money and making a decision based on the jacket, not knowing what the record sounded like…God, it was a magical, magical time. A generation from now people are going to say: ‘What happened?’ “ He added, “Steve Jobs is personally responsible for killing the music business.”

 

Jobs actually saved what was left of the music industry by helping artists find a way to monetize what was left after illegal downloading nearly finished it off. Though digital technology finished killing off the music album of our beloved past, it certainly didn’t start here. Remember making mixed tapes for your friends and lovers? “Theme” tapes were popularized in the 80’s when recordable audiocassettes became widely available. Couples would pull their albums off the shelf and select songs that helped them express how they really felt for that special someone. Others would make party tapes of the greatest hits, recording off the radio, off other tapes, and of course off vinyl albums. My brother would argue that the gleaning of thematic or top-rated songs from albums happened even earlier in time, as his friend’s father was a D.J. in the 70’s and used his reel to reel machine to create mixes, but notice I’ve used the word “popularized” to describe the recording of mixes in the 80’s, as production of this blank recording media took off.

 

In Canada, recording artists demanded that the government add a special surcharge to each blank tape sold, called a Private Copying Levy that is set by the Copyright Board of Canada and currently collected by the Canadian Private Copying Collective. Still, music lovers everywhere abused, and continue to abuse the privilege to make a personal private copy of their albums. CD ripping and digital file sharing has just amplified the “pick and choose” landscape that had already begun with the proliferation of making mixed collections on blank cassette tapes.

 

Maybe it’s time to say goodbye to the old music album of our youth. Can you genuinely name a recent album that has come close to the ones we worshipped way back when? I’m not knocking today’s music. I just think we’ve entered a new era of “singles”, “doubles”, and maybe if the music is hot enough, “triples”. So, what did those long albums have back then, that others today don’t? Two of my favourites, Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love both tell stories throughout their albums. This single narrative weaving its way through the entire album had a cohesiveness that would have been sacrilege to separate. But, do today’s youth listen to albums the same way we did? Research shows more than ever, that youth are prone to flipping through music, often not even finishing a song before going on to the next. The music trough is so full and the market so saturated with choice, that when you combine the wide availability with the way hyper-mediated youth switch their attentions so much quicker than we did, the dying of the music album seems like an obvious end.

 

So, what’s left then? The simple answer is the consumptive experience. Bon Jovi is just going to have to get used to hitting the road for more tours, ‘cause that’s where the money’s at.

(photo courtesy of: By Maxime Felder (originally posted to Flickr as iPod Battle 2) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Technological Determinism VS Social Determinism in Education

Greg Williams, Creative Commons

I work in education, an area that is slow to roll with the times of change. Technology has become ubiquitous in the lives of our students, as youth continue to embrace mobile technologies. Yet, there are many educators who just want to shut the door on technology, claiming that it is too much of a distraction. Common are the complaints about texting at inappropriate times, teen compulsion to stay connected 24/7, and the disruptive nature of incoming calls and texts… and the complainants are absolutely right. It is disruptive. There is no disputing that. But we need to ask, “why is technology disruptive?”

 

The shorter answer has its beginnings in big businesses’ quest for ultimate productivity carried over from the turn of this century when it was thought that multi-tasking meant more work would always get done. The longer and more pertinent answer to the question at hand is that technology is not being used for its greatest benefits because adults haven’t been around to guide youth in setting boundaries and defining good purpose for use. We’ve left youth out on a limb to discover possibly the most life-altering evolution of their lives all on their own. This, at a time when McLuhan’s description of technology being extensions of the self has never had more resonance.

 

Technological determinism does not happen in isolation. Human beings have the opportunity to mold technology just as much as technology has to mold us. Teachers need to help set the parameters for use by embracing technology, teaching good purpose, and modeling appropriate use both academically and socially.

Groundhog Day

 

My head is spinning this morning as I think about how to keep course work organized, relevant, accessible, organized and engaging for my students. I’ve tried numerous platforms out there from free online web 2.0 apps to sponsored education sites and apps. As I migrate my material to different platforms and sites, I feel my frustration mounting. Betas are dropped, apps are modified or commercialized and I’m left scrambling looking for the next best “fit”. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Groundhog Day.

I started using Ning last year because students love social networking. They enjoyed being able to comment on each other’s work and posts. They spent a good deal of time making their own page individualized and personalized by choosing their own page formats, colour schemes; adding videos, photos, and audio of their work. The live chat feature came in handy when I was absent in Boston. I was able to converse in real time with students as they worked on the tasks and video tutorials I had left on the site. I even linked to my Google Docs and calendar. Then Ning commercialized their site and I was lucky enough this year to get a sponsorship from Pearson for a “mini-plan”. Now I can’t create groups, post videos or music, students can no longer use their Facebook account to access the site, and I have to approve every single blog they write. I don’t have 500 dollars from my budget to open this back up to the capabilities that come with a full membership. So I started checking out other sites but then ran into the same sort of problems as these sites worked to monetize their services. It seems like there are roadblocks wherever I go.

I use Google Groups for some of my personal learning networks and for collaboration. Unfortunately, Google is taking out the page and file capabilities this January. I stumbled upon the Google Notebook, which allows for the placement of notes in a linear fashion but also uses labels as cloud tags for those who prefer being hyperlinked. It also linked in with Google Docs and Presentations, but Google took away the sharing capability of Google Notebook and has stopped support for the project.

There’s got to be a working formula some where for education.

(photo courtesy of EIC, Wikimedia Commons)