Our outboard brain

Discussions around the outboard brain were strong around 2007 when wired magazine and others picked up this notion of us now having an outboard brain and outsourcing some of our thinking to a device. The article Your outboard brain knows all was a lively discussion of this issue:

“My point is that the cyborg future is here. Almost without noticing it, we’ve outsourced important peripheral brain functions to the silicon around us.”

It made me think. I love being able to look anything up when I do not know. In that sense I am more informed. My blogging has really contributed to my knowledge but I have just done exactly what the article is talking about. I surprised myself by finding a blog post about the outboard brain on another blog of mine. I had forgotten all about it. The issue is still relevant and David Bowden’s poetry examines the impact of technology on us. There is another poem The inner net which examines our so called connectivity and what the impact of that has been in human terms.

I have ready access to factual information because blogging makes me think and integrate that knowledge into my own database. I’d say technology has contributed well and effectively to my ever growing brain. To ensure this though I make sure I put myself at risk technologically by learning new software, a new OS, a new gadget. Nothing like databases to force a literary brain into chaos and ensure it HAS to learn!! Technology is for me a tool, not a substitute…and I thank this poem for helping me think this through.

Steam Castle is ready for Christmas

Steam Castle

Had a lovely time decorating my computer for Christmas. It has a USB tree and lights, a little LED bling Christmas tree light which I have put in a frame, a cool glam candle holder made from perspex and glitter beads and then strings of gold beads on  top of the Steam Castle . The Christmas theme comes from themepack.me. It’s the Christmas Tree theme.

Taming technology

Simplifying our use of technology really is a first world problem. We are spoiled for choice with technology , whether we are talking about hardware , software or services. In global terms we are not really overwhelmed by the weight of technology in our lives. Truly, others have far more demanding issues to confront on a daily basis. Nevertheless, there are people who are genuinely becoming stressed by the constant demands of technology and there are people who are being pushed to the wall by the constant requirement to be connected or to access technology. We really need to use our critical thinking skills when it comes to technology and the video sums it up as these 5 steps:

Formulate a question
Gather information
Apply information
Consider implications
Explore other points of view.

The website Inc probably sums up the increasing encroachment of technology on our time:

“After you’ve checked SMS, WhatsApp, voicemail, email, your second email account, Facebook messages, LinkedIn messages, Twitter mentions, Twitter DMs, Quora messages, snail mail, and Slack for the third time in a given day, you’ve lost the opportunity to actually, ya know, get anything done. Narrow down the number of communications media you use, and batch process the messages that arrive, to reclaim your day,” suggests VC Patrick Mathieson.

The whole post about simplifying our lives talks a lot of common sense and it will probably strike a chord with you as it did with me. The tips recommended for simplifying your life can apply just as easily to technology as life in general. You do need to set boundaries. You do need to have reasonable expectations of others. Why should they respond immediately to your SMS or email? How many sites can a person reasonably belong to and check in a working day and if they have dependant children or older parents ? How does it help to be connected? What are the things which trigger bad responses to connectivity? How many devices do you need to use and why? Can you do more on one device? Why can’t you use the device of your choice? Have you explored the apps and sites which streamline your activities? Those are some questions to start your critical thinking.

I have been using my phone more because it is always with me. I have taken the time to learn its settings and I have improved how I do things on my phone. I check emails in the morning and again in the evening. I do not connect to emails on my phone. If I don’t want to be interrupted I turn the sound off. The pressure comes from the perception that technology is harassing you. When you feel like that and that your life is not your own you need to change the balance and make incremental changes until you reach that point where the balance of power is again in your favour. You have to change the point of critical mass until is flows your way according to your wishes. Popsugar has some nice ideas for simplifying tech use . Put the critical thinking time in so it works for you. We are lucky to have all this technology but it does need to be tamed.

Using technology in the real world

Technology use in the real world is quite different from school based use. For a start, the real world uses phones and phone apps far more frequently. Phones are used for messaging reminders, information, keeping in business contact, company and govt apps, calendars, reminders, QR codes and video calling. The real world uses QR codes a lot to get information out. The real world also engages more regularly with social media. Facebook pages, Instagram and Twitter are used to provide a point of contact, sometimes to create discussions and information sharing and to create real ties with people of similar interest or regional location. The real world documents their activities more with photos which are shared and ideas which are shared. You get to see work places, discussion groups, activities, ideas generation. Through social media you engage more dynamically with a business , organisation or key individual. Individuals will use their phones for information checking, sharing photos and ideas with you: show and tell. They will use their phone to put in reminders or check their calendar. They will show you how they manage their phone and the sorts of things they use it for. Some use it to make videos which they share on YouTube or Instagram. They might be tourist videos but more often than not they are instructional videos or videos of their pets. Phones can also be used to navigate exhibitions and to get local information. Phones play a significant role in documenting daily life and routines.  Laptops are used to get work done. I have seen people on the train studying power points, writing scripts for essays or tutorials, doing spreadsheets or studying notes. Laptops are noticeably the work horses of the real world. Tablets tend to be for games, videos and video calling. Some people do that on their phones but tablets by and large seem to be the device of choice for video calling especially for older people. There are fewer people who bang on on the mobile phone incessantly and loudly in public. It tends to be more discreet these days and often phones are not visible in meetings or restaurants at all. They come out when someone wants to share information or put in a diary date or check an appointment. White boards have a limited use in the real world and different from in a classroom. In classrooms their use is multipurpose, multifunction and multifaceted. In the real world they show someone else’s laptop and you go through their files as a group. From that point of view they are used collaboratively. You are all looking at something and it is being changed in real time as the discussions ensue. It’s actually a satisfying use of IWB in a meeting. In the other group I attend the IWB is used for Power Point displays, videos and group work questions. It’s good and it works but a white board can do so much more. In the real world I use my phone so much more. Everywhere I go there are things I can do with my phone either to get information or to share it.  For one of my groups I take pictures for Instagram and my blogs. They have brought me in contact with so many people in the region and local businesses. Organisations also use email a lot to get out information, enhance information, supply useful links, create discussions and offer support. That use of emails is very helpful and positive. It is quite effective for deepening discussions and the emails which come with follow up ideas and information help create a very positive atmosphere. The last thing which is all the go in the real world are very classy, cool desktops with gadgets. The minimal  design emphasis is obvious and the clean, clear layouts and arrangements are striking. Pleased to add that my retro desktop has proven to be popular!

Do something differently

Do something differently and do something different. With technology it’s a must because it changes rapidly. You can use your familiar ground to do things differently and you can challenge yourself to do something different. The future isn’t now, it’s tomorrow. You are not the future now , you are in the present but the future will be different and it will mean changing . Technology is a handy way to keep yourself open to change. Change your set up. Change how you do things. Change the order in which you do things. Use your tablet more or less. Try the phone version of something you use on a laptop. Do without your laptop for a week. Use images instead of words. Send a video instead of an email. As you train yourself to change you are investing in your self confidence and skills. You trust yourself to be able to do things differently and believe you can work things out.

1. Use different tools. You could well find something better.
2. Learn a new device or app.
3. Use chat instead of email or vice versa

People who are confident and inventive with technology have a balanced set of skills and approaches. They know how to troubleshoot and they can think of so many ways to problem solve. Experience is a great teacher. As people we always like our way of doing things and the tools and media we use. It doesn’t hurt once in a while to try and do it differently and the way someone else does it. Pay attention to what other people are using and what devices they use and when. If you think they are competent with technology then try it their way and see what you learn. As you work through a process of doing something differently then what are you learning and what are the benefits? Did your change make you feel more or less successful? Did you know how to problem solve? Did you ask for help? How quickly did you adapt to the new way of doing something and what were the benefits for you? Learning by doing is very effective. You do not tend to forget and you stimulate your brain to think differently. You also make use of different skills and don’t just have a set of unrelated thoughts in your head which may or may not come into action. Often, when you are doing something different or differently you will automatically share that experience and therefore gain valuable encouragement or feedback for improvement. It just comes naturally that you share either because you are pleased with what you have done or you are frustrated by it.

Can I put my money where my mouth is? Have I done different things or done things differently?

1.I put Hay Day on my smartphone. I am not one to play games on my phone and had the belief it’s not easy and not good for me. I thought it wouldn’t be as good on a phone. I downloaded the app, logged in, connected my current account on Hay Day via Facebook and then marvelled at how easy it was and how I could spend 10 minutes happily. I was surprised how well it works on the phone and how easily I could play. It’s how I found out about Hay Day. Someone was playing on their phone and I asked about it because I love farm games. It ended up being a really good conversation but I came home that evening and loaded it onto my iPad Air.

2. I have made myself use Instagram all year because I had joined and not really done anything or participated. Most days I am taking photos to put on my account. I have loved it because the community is very positive, creative and artistic. I have got to know some local and not so local people very easily. My photos have been successful and I can look back over the year and see how I have changed and grown and then see what I have achieved.

3.I have been involved in a lot of different social settings and events this year. I came to technology as a teacher. I have a teacher headset. It has been really interesting to see how the real world uses technology because the emphases and uses are quite different . I plan to blog about this.

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