The future has been here for a while now

We interrupt this discussion of chi-square and other categorical data analysis for a broadcast from the future …

My brain is full. After three days of Macworld I have come to a number of conclusions, which I will share with you in random order, thus sparing you the expense, inconvenience and sogginess of traveling to San Francisco.

juliacomputerAny educational institution that is not getting into podcasting BIG TIME is missing the boat. It has already left the shore and you had better start swimming.

The last time I took my daughter to Macworld, high on her Christmas list was the preschool game, Pajama Sam. The iPhone and iTouch were not even a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye. My now ten-year-old daughter received an iTouch for Christmas and by the next day had three pages of apps on it, thanks to the allowance in the iTunes store that Daddy gave her.  If you believe the Macworld folks, and I have no reason not to, there are 10,000 apps for the iPhone.

I spend most of my time using, reading and teaching about statistics and statistical software. I do some web pages, in both Dreamweaver 8 and html, I write one blog using Word Press and a second with Movable Type, still most of my focus on computer usage is just that, usage. I use SAS on Windows, Solaris and Linux OS, I use SPSS , Stata, Dreamweaver and Photoshop on both Mac and Windows. For all of that, I would consider myself a very knowledgeable computer USER and a good SAS programmer. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on computers any more than I would say I am tour guide just because I have driven most of the roads in Los Angeles.

What became abundantly clear once I looked up from my statistics books is that the world IS changing. To a greater extent than I had believed, blogs ARE for old people. That isn’t to say that young people don’t read blogs, they do. I can guarantee that younger people are spending a LOWER proportion of time on blogs and surfing the Internet on computers and a HIGHER proportion of their time using their iPods, iPhones, iTouch and other devices. They are also spending a greater proportion of their time PERIOD on-line in some form or another.

Now, none of this is breaking news. At the Center for Scholarly Technology conference several months ago, there were a number of presentations on Digital Natives, Lance Wicks has been writing about it for quite some time as well as many others. Here is what has NOT happened. By and large, educational institutions have been slow to get with the program.

Unless Second Life can be efficiently played on an iPod (which I doubt), the Linden dollar is going the way of the Dow Jones.

The improved iLife with Garageband and iMovie are worth the money. I attended a lab on Garageband on Monday. It was worthwhile. I learned a few new things, which is all one can reasonably expect in two hours.

We have Blackboard, which I, and many other faculty members, use pretty regularly. Yet, how many of us create podcasts? Have we not NOTICED that every one of our students has an iPod? I bet the average student goes to iTunes and YouTube more often than to the library.

Something’s got to give as far as Internet access. I know I am going to get flak about this because my own university, in fact, my own department disables accounts for using excess bandwidth, but we need to acknowledge the fact that people are more and more using the Internet for downloading music, videos and software. Today, I had to call Guest Tech at the Holiday Inn because the Internet quit working.  I was told that my IP address had been disabled because of the amount of downloads from the hotel. The helpful young man on the phone commented that often that came about because people were downloading movies and music and maybe I should not do that.

Actually, I am not running a middle-aged version of Napster from my hotel room and I doubt my fellow travelers are as well. Many of the guests are here for Macworld. Last night, I tried (unsuccessfully) to download a movie illustrating the new features of Mobile Me, by Apple. I also wanted to check some iPhone apps that I had read reviewed in the new magazine, iPhone Life.

This morning, I am trying to download some podcasts from PBS plus check some iTunes U offerings. It has become painfully obvious to me that we are behind in educational technology everywhere I have ever taught.  It is as if the faculty need to sprint to get ahead of the students we are supposed to be leading. I am not saying that as professors we don’t have more knowledge about our field, because we do. We also have very bright, gracious, motivated students in most cases so they are too polite to point out that we are teaching them Calculus using the modern equivalent of a piece slate and a sharp rock.

It is not that some of the places I have taught have not used podcasts, it is just that the ones I have seen have generally (not all) been dismal, nothing more than a droning voice reminiscent of the teacher in the old Charlie Brown specials – blah blah blah blah blah.

Well, I need to head back to LA. On the way, I am going to listen to the podcasts and iTunes U to try to pick up some ideas. After all, I can use the iPod on my iPhone on the 8-hour drive home. That’s one more advantage to podcasts over the Internet.

Oh, note to self, the next time you refer to the kids as “this MTV generation”, you’re dating yourself. MTV has been replaced by iTunes, Youtube, Facebook (MySpace is so-o-o 2007.)

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