Tag Archives: Computers

Digital Dads: Mobile Office Movable Torture Chamber

The future is a fascinating place and I’m so glad to live here.

Back when I was younger (when dinosaurs ruled the Earth and I had to walk five miles to school, uphill both ways, dodging alligators and suffering through huge snow drifts now get offa my lawn), we thought of the future as the place where the skies would be filled with flying cars and jetpacks and other astonishing bits of transportation magic.

Turns out, at least so far, a car still is recognizably a car and wouldn’t surprise anyone from the dawn of the Age of the Automobile. What has changed, though, has been the way we communicate.

We still talk, laugh and scream, but the handwritten, stamped and addressed letter is dying a slow, inevitable death except for wedding invitations and thank-you notes to older relatives, and the three broadcast networks and newspapers no longer have a monopsony on information dispersal.

Yeah, it’s another post on computers and the internet.20140623-110347-39827043.jpg

This bit of stand-back-and-be-agog-about-computers was brought on by where and how I’m producing this post. I’m not at home or an office, but am away for the day. I didn’t bring my laptop computer, either.

Instead, I brought a flat, thin rectangle of touch-sensitive glass squished full of circuits and electronics and I connected it invisibly through complicated communications protocols to a tiny self-powered keyboard. Yeah, I am writing this on a wonderful Luvvitt keyboard and my iPad mini.

I’m with Zippy the Travelin’ Boy. Being the diligent college student that he is, The Zipster is working hard on perfecting his hard-won lessons from Sleeping The Day Away 101.

So I’m taking advantage of the quiet to get a little work done.

This ability to communicate via vastly different channels to a disparate group of dudes and dudettes can make for a wonderfully convenient work aide at times.

However, when we allow this constant connection to become a chain around our ankles as opposed to a rope to lift us from the muck and mire, we allow ourselves to be dragged from the somewhat-gleaming future and down into the dreary past.

All of which goes to say that I’m about to finish this up, go grab the Big Poking Stick to awaken Zippy the Travelin’ Boy from safe distance, and then go enjoy the day with my son who’s growing up much too fast already.

Put down the computers and unplug. Go out and have a great weekend with the people you love.

Even in the future, nothing beats an in-person hug.

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Maybe The Handwriting Isn’t On The Wall After All

Our brain must understand that each possible iteration of, say, an “a” is the same, no matter how we see it written. Being able to decipher the messiness of each “a” may be more helpful in establishing that eventual representation than seeing the same result repeatedly.

The same research also notes that there could be a difference in the brains of young learners between those who only know how to print block letters (Hello! I’m mostly one of those. Long story.) and those who learn how to write in cursive.

In dysgraphia, a condition where the ability to write is impaired, sometimes after brain injury, the deficit can take on a curious form: In some people, cursive writing remains relatively unimpaired, while in others, printing does.

In alexia, or impaired reading ability, some individuals who are unable to process print can still read cursive, and vice versa — suggesting that the two writing modes activate separate brain networks and engage more cognitive resources than would be the case with a single approach.

That might not be all that much of a big deal, if it weren’t for the fact that cursive writing is disappearing as a subject being taught to the little dudes and dudettes in school. My youngest, Hyper Lad, really only had cursive for about a single year.

He had to learn the letters, try to put them together, and then was forced to write his spelling sentences in cursive each week for the rest of the year. And, really, that was it.

Now it’s years later and, because he didn’t get cursive reinforced in school and because his dad didn’t get a chance to really learn cursive his ownself, I now have to do the reading for him when it comes to cursive notes written by his oldest relatives. Annoying, but also, apparently, only the smallest of problems relating to not knowing cursive.

It turns out, the benefits of learning both handwriting and cursive will last through childhood and into adulthood. Most adults know how to type and consider it an efficient method for taking notes, certainly above using a messy handwriting. However, the very efficiency of typing could be working against adults trying to assimilate new information.

Two psychologists, Pam A. Mueller of Princeton and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles, have reported that in both laboratory settings and real-world classrooms, students learn better when they take notes by hand than when they type on a keyboard. Contrary to earlier studies attributing the difference to the distracting effects of computers, the new research suggests that writing by hand allows the student to process a lecture’s contents and reframe it — a process of reflection and manipulation that can lead to better understanding and memory encoding.

All of which means . . . what?

I’m not going to say that you must emphasize handwriting in the young dudes and dudettes, but it’s looking like it might be a good idea.

Heck, even just having them handwrite the really important bits from their notes might offer a significant improvement in their ability to assimilate new information. Definitely something to think about as you sit down for your . . . erm. . . their homework come fall.

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The Handwriting On The Wall

The future of school looks a lot like a computer keyboard. . . but maybe it shouldn’t.

Right now, young dudes and dudettes in elementary school, middle school and high school mostly take notes by hand. Every parent knows the nightmare of not getting the right color composition book and having to rush back to Walmart with a sniffling child and rooting in vain amongst the dregs of the school supplies, knowing the color won’t be there and school starts tomorrow and why won’t he just be quiet and for the love of peter just take the green one because it really doesn’t make a difference.

*ahem* Yeah, I might have some issues there. Moving on.

So, most notes are taken with pencil and paper in grades k-12, but that might not last for long. And that could be a problem as life goes on.

While college students still take some notes with pen and paper, I’m seeing more and more computers or tablets on college student desks as they take notes to the clicking of keys and not the clicking of a ball-point pen. And that technophilia is moving down into the primary school years as well.

The future is wall-to-wall computers and our schools are changing to accommodate that. According to some recent research, that could be a big mistake.

Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.

“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” said Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris. “There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain.

Which we will discuss tomorrow when I come back with a bit more about the whole handwriting versus typing debate.

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