Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!


et502's picture
I’ve been hesitating to actually use my iPad - and no, I’m not writing this blog entry on the iPad. I probably could if I wanted to. But like I said, I’m hesitant. I know it will be really good for me, that I will benefit from the mental exercise...
But the thing is, it actually takes me a while to learn how to use a piece of technology. Like anyone else, I’m going through an adjustment period. So when I say I am able to use a cellphone or iPad, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m adept. And it will be much faster to just type this and submit it on my MacBook Pro (which I also don’t know how to use to its full capacity), than to try to use a whole other piece of equipment at the same time.

My boss keeps telling me that this generation needs to slow down - we’re too impatient, we don’t read the directions all the way through, overconfident that we’ll be able to just figure it out as we go. In class, I had a hard time paying attention to Olivia’s instructions - I was so eager to try out this new machine and start creating things! But as soon as class was over, I felt a sort of drag - “now what?” I think this is such a trend - we (my generation) are enthusiastic about something new (an instrument, a foreign language, an iPad) but as soon as we encounter difficulties - such as not knowing how to get from one App to another without going back to the main screen, or feeling slowed down by the unfamiliar touchpad - we hesitate.

So my question is - is it better to do that: figure it out as you go? Acquire understanding on your own (note the Ed term “acquire” as opposed to “learn”)? Find your own sources of instruction?
Or is it more useful to be mentored through an unfamiliar subject, to have a teacher, to learn?
Do we need classes that will teach us how to use our MacBooks? our cellphones? our alarm clocks? At what point is it unfair to assume that students (or faculty/staff, for that matter) ought to know how to operate new technology? When are we supposed to find the time for this?


alesnick's picture

difference countering "drag?"

Hi Esteniolla! I can take a joke :) Seriously (ahem, all kidding aside :), I think you are onto something.  Tech needs to afford us a tool to create something different, otherwise it is just expensive and divisive in terms of access.  But to realize/create difference with it, we have to master it, at least somewhat.  And to do that, we have to get into it down below what is already familliar.  Hmmm . . . so maybe the learning curve is really quite demanding.  If so, how will we learn this?  How must education change to afford space for this learning? For whom? When?  Thanks!

ashley's picture


Just wanted to comment on my own amusement on my impatience. I was reading/skimming your post and the last phrase I read as I was scrolling away was, "we're too impatient..." (of course then I came back to it). Thought it was a funny coincidence that served to prove that statement accurate. Your blog was interesting enough, but what I noticed was that I fully read the blog posts at the top and as I made my way down I read less and less of each post. Is that attributed to technological advances present in my life? 

m.steinfeld's picture

Technology Learning

I feel the same way you do about listening to Olivia’s instructions. I found that I wasn’t listening and only playing but when I came across something I didn’t know about I would perk up and just ask my question without thought to where in the instructions she was. I also realized that I never would have looked up the answers to any of my questions, I only would have asked someone. We do have all these new resources yet the way I wanted my answer was through personal contact, not via the internet. I also realized that so far all I have used my iPad for is to play games. I could figure out easily how to download free apps (and I only picked ones I had heard about before, not ones I researched and found on my own) and started playing them, but like I said on Twitter, I haven’t really figured out the best way to use it for educational purposes, wasn’t that the whole point of the iPad in the first place?

            As to your questions, a combination of learning and acquisition need to take place. The process of being literate in a new technology should start with acquisition. Get used to the touchscreen and play around, figure out what you can do. Once you have a handle have someone teach you the details would be helpful because then you already have a basis of knowledge to help understand the new information. After that learning go back to acquisition and learning on your own to help internalize the lessons, then back to learning when something new you don’t understand comes up, and so on.

            It is not fare to assume anyone knows to use new technology. But how to best go about teaching those who struggle is a good one. We are all busy people, but it is probably worth an hour of a Moodle tutorial or iPad lesson if it will speed up the rest of your semester to know how these different mediums work. Perhaps schools need to offer more basic technology classes, the question is would they be popular?

alesnick's picture

able vs. adept . . . time, generational learning curves

I have been mulling this thoughtful post. I recognize within myself the sense of "drag" after the excitement of initial access to a new tech, skill, or pursuit.  At the same time, I am intrigued by the idea that the way you experience it has a generational dimension, is of a piece with generational issues and experiences.  

I have often thought that learning with/to use computers brings about a blur of study and doing such that figuring it out while using it is helpful/enabling.  In this vein, putting down the directions without a thorough read is adaptive.  On the other hand, there are occasions when deep, slow study is valuable, and wonderful.  Sometimes the experience of study is one of acquisition, is "experiential learning," as well.

Re: finding the time . . . is it helpful to think of taking time not to learn a new tool, but to use a tool to do something you are already interested in or commited to? 

Just thoughts here, no certainties.  Much appreciation.

couldntthinkofanoriginalname's picture

The Point?

But Alice, I thought the point of each tech device was to discover something new or to do something that wasn't "possible" before? I feel like if these devices are used to do things we already know or already doing, this new tech age would be pointless. We'd fully understand, not necessarily discover because we have, that all these devices overlap with the exception of one or two functions. I think the initial excitement with these devices is in discovering and learning these slight differences and there is a drag when the differences are discovered or mastery of the different function seems unattainable.

With that said, I realize that such devices make interaction faster and easier but here I am physically alone, but at the same time, "talking" to you and yet I know that this conversation is possible if we were to talk face to face. My point is there seems to be nothing more to tech advancement than figuring out the differences from the last model. Much of what is advertised, like all these online forums, can be done in person, through mail, and through a phone call. And the most basic tech needs, like writing a paper but even that can be handwritten, only requires a simple computer. Therefore, for the most part, the iPads were distractions at first for me, Emily, and Manya because it's not like we were trying to figure out something we couldn't do already. It was a matter of "ooh, what is different about this iPad?" And now that we have discovered there is really nothing new, we are in "drag mode" until the next shiny, seemingly different, new toy comes along. Hmm, perhaps an iPhone 4s from BM would take us out of our misery. What do you think?

I'm joking,

Esteniolla M.