Category Archives: personal

too much technology?

Another entry in the too much technology debate: Hooked on Gadgets, And Paying a Mental Price in today’s New York Times.

“Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. …These play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation provokes excitement — a dopamine squirt — that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored.”

This is fascinating to me, because I’ve come across this theme of addiction (and the shame that sometimes comes with it) in my research with college students. For example, when I’ve asked students to keep a technology journal for a few days, the response often ends up being “wow, I didn’t realize how much technology I use and how dependent on it I am” and “that’s not a good thing.” When I ask why they feel so dependent on it, however, the answer tends to be harder for them to articulate – because they’ll feel out of the loop, like they’ll miss something, or might be letting others down who expect them to be always available. These are reasonable and important social explanations, in the context of the social worlds in which they operate. It’s really interesting to see that there might also be a cognitive and physical explanation as well… and interesting to ponder the potential interplay between the social and the cognitive…

Related to the article, you can also test your focus using an interactive quiz from Stanford researchers that was used to examine how many objects low and high multitaskers could hold in short term memory.

I’m not a great multitasker – I tend to work very intensely on one thing at a time, and end up being sunk deep enough into the task that I get annoyed at distractions and interruptions. According to the Stanford research, this explains my high scores on the focus test.

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Facebook and privacy

This is obviously a hot topic lately, especially with FB’s latest round of changes. This time there’s less of an uproar from users (at least, in my news feed, anyway) perhaps because these changes don’t affect the interface in a major way as have past changes. On the other hand, the new changes are at a much deeper level, and leave users with a difficult decision regarding their privacy, leading toward a share all or nothing scenario.

Gizmodo posted a compelling article, Top 10 Reasons to Quit Facebook. The article also points to EFF‘s timeline of changes to FB’s privacy policy, which shows a clear tendency toward a default of share everything, all or nothing.

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wrapping up

So at the end of last week, I completed a draft of my dissertation.  It didn’t really hit me until after I’d finished writing the last section what a huge freakin’ task that was.  I mean, of course, I knew (it’s a dissertation, after all), but in order to get through the daily tedium of writing, I couldn’t allow myself to think more than one day at a time.  Wow, though.  I’m editing and putting together the refs now, and will turn it in to my committee at the beginning of next week.  In the end, it’ll weigh in somewhere around 280 pages.  And after all that, parts of it aren’t too bad.  🙂  Let’s hope the committee thinks so, too – final judgment (i.e. oral defense) is set for June 6.

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springtime in the city

Although I’m ready to move on to less insane pastures, New York City certainly has its charms, and they are none more apparent than in the spring.  The fall is probably my favorite season overall, but the city sure is lovely with all the flowering trees in bloom, temperature just right – warm sun, cool breeze – mmm.  And people are starting to emerge, as well – in fact, on my way to work this morning, I passed two elderly women on the street in time to hear one of them say to a passing gentleman, in a slow, deep voice: "Niiiice day.  Would you like to hear about Armageddon?" 

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help fund good teaching with technology!

A friend of mine from high school, Matt Anthes-Washburn, has been nominated for a prestigious physics teaching award from the NSF for his excellence in teaching high school physics.  You can see him in action in this Neighborhood Network News report video (opens in Windows Media Player).  Congrats, Matt!

He’s also currently trying to get a classroom technology project funded through DonorsChoose.org.  An excerpted description: " My students are English Language Learners and
recent immigrants from various countries. Together, we learn physics
through inquiry, while learning English language in context. …In
this project, we will integrate physical supports such as graphic
organizers and structured notebook pages with state-of-the art digital
technology. …My students need a wireless Wacom Graphire Bluetooth tablet, a VGA adapter, and 30 reams of copy paper. The cost of this proposal is $544."  Contribute here to help his kids!

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news!

I’m very excited to report that I’ll be joining the faculty in the Department of Educational Technology and Literacy (rather serendipitous overlap with my interests, no?) at Towson University in the fall!   I’ll be teaching classes at the undergraduate and grad levels, advising primarily doctoral students, and working with a group of colleagues who have already been supportive in terms of facilitating the transition from grad student to faculty member.  (If you have advice on that whole transition thing, do share!)  In the meantime, I "just" have to finish my dissertation (I swear, if one more person says that to me I’m gonna explode)… But it’s going well, and I’m feeling energized.  Here’s to the light at the end of the tunnel!

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