Archive | September 2013

Cell phones & the fear of being alone

While I’m a technology lover, I do agree with the point of view that by using technology (especially cell phones) so much we miss out on or plain avoid the opportunity to be alone.

There is a lot of self-knowledge to be gained from being alone and free of incoming information. But it often hurts and is scary. So we avoid it by reaching for connection (aka cell phone). Sherry Turkle argues that the kind of connection we get this way is not always authentic and satisfying. It is a cheap replacement, like a cheap “nutritional” drink is a replacement for a healthy, nourishing meal.

Anyway, arguments like the one above are boring. But this comedian explains it much better on Conan:

Can you try to pay attention and notice when you are using your phone to avoid being alone? Can you try practicing being alone, just sitting there, without music or any other stimulus, for maybe 5 minutes every other day, and see what happens?

Know what you know

As I was getting ready to leave my first ever grown-up academic job for a brand new academic adventure, a dear colleague gave me this piece of advice:

Remember this: You know what you know.

It’s one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given, and I find myself passing it on to young professionals, and many women who, like me at that time, might not yet have enough self confidence.

I’ve turned this around into:

Know what you know.

First, know your stuff. Don’t bluff. Don’t cut corners. Do the work. And then, remember and trust that you know it. Have confidence in yourself and what you know.

What is some very good advice that you were given early in your career?



Active learning ideas for CGT 512

I am fully behind the theory of active learning, but I struggle with putting it in practice. It takes a lot of creativity to engineer situations that stimulate active learning, and I am not entirely trained – I don’t know the toolbox. But I try.

I’m pretty proud of what we did in my HCI graduate course tonight, and I don’t want to forget it, so here we go:

Discussion on GUI history ended with question about where future interface paradigms are headed. We experimented with tangible computing. I gave each group some items (toys, boxes, trinkets)  to use as starting points for designing a communication system that uses those items for interaction.

The students had read 4 articles on various types and aspects of HCI design (UCD, participatory/value sensitive, critical, and a comparison article). We started by ranking the reading is terms of: ease of understanding and favorites. This gave me a feel for what reading(s) were harder to understand. I asked question to tease out the essence of each article and then each team got post-its of 2 different colors. On one color they had to list activities the authors undertook as part of the design process, and on the other, concepts that were new to them. One item per post-it.

I then asked 2 groups to combine their activities on one board and  their concepts on another, and then organize them into categories and name each category. We heard brief presentations of the categories on each board, and I interjected points meant to link everything together.

Ended class with some questions meant to integrate the material and 2 minutes of reflection for students to note down their take-aways.

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