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EdTech Update





Intelligence Deficit Syndrome

In his post Complexity-Induced Mental Illness, Scott (Dilbert) Adams, writes:

My guess is that I’m somewhere in the top 25% of humans that can survive high complexity without going mad. And I’m starting to feel the water line touch my chin.

As just one example, this morning I decided I will never again try to watch television with other people. It got too complicated. For starters, I can never find anyone at the same point in their binge-watching of a series. Secondly, I have to figure out if a show is on a premium channel, DVR, On Demand, NetFlix, or whatever. Then I have to find the episode where I left off. Then I have to hope my technology for serving up the show works. My TV takes about five steps just to power it on. If I am watching on my computer, that’s another level of complication. Rarely does “watching television” work smoothly these days.

I noted this complexity problem many years ago. I called it IDS - Intelligence Deficit Syndrome - the ability that technology has to make a person feel less than competent. Here are some examples I gave back in 2000:

See if any of these “technologies” have given you IDS:

  • Having to use over 20 numbers to make a long distance telephone call. The number string for me to dial out from a hotel using my credit card looks something like this: 9-1-800-228-8288-507-555-1234-863-037-7459-2468 I count thirty-six numbers I have to remember.
  • Having a stove with burners set in a rectangular patter and knobs set in a row. I have to look at the little diagram beside the knob every time I light a burner.
  • Having one car with the wiper lever on the left side of the column and one car with the wiper level on the right side of the column. I wipe when I want to dim, and I still haven’t quite got the wash to work on a consistent basis.
  • Pushing a glass door when you should have pulled on the door.
  • Scorching yourself because you don’t know if counterclockwise makes the water in the shower hotter or colder. This is a common vacation trauma for me.
  • Knowing what fewer than 50% of the buttons do on the VCR’s remote control. And I never remember how to get out of the on-screen menu. At least my deck doesn’t blink 12:00, although I haven’t changed the time to accommodate for daylight savings time. Let’s see, is that fall back or fall forward. Damn!
  • Worrying that dragging the little disk icon on your Mac to the trashcan icon will erase the files on the disk. For some users I’ve made an alias of the trash icon and gave it a symbol that looks like an arrow. Eases the fear.

With the possible exception of a few 8-18 year-olds, most of us at some time suffer from IDS.













The punch line in my talks about IDS was about the garage door opener pictured above having three buttons - one to open and close the garage door and the other two to exacerbate my feelings of intelligence deficiency.

And the world only seems to grow, more, not less complex. My phone takes a 650 page book of tips by David Pogue to master; my bike computer has a dozen function controlled by the combination of pushing only two buttons; and the MicrosoftOffice toolkit gets increasingly complex with each new release.

At work, staff are faced with websites full of links to how-to instructions. Making a hiring request requires mastery of one system; OKing employee leave another; checking budgets still one more. Teachers use the SIS, the CMS; and, and, and ...

It's enough to drive a person to drink.

Which was exactly Adams's point in his blog quoted above.

Is growing complexity just an inevitable upward spiral - along with its attendant psychological toll on most of us? 


Physicians who major in the humanities?

 There are three great questions which in life we have to ask over and over again to answer:

   Is it right or wrong?
   Is it true or false?
   Is it beautiful or ugly?

Our education ought to help us to answer these questions.

                                                                                                     John Lubbock

In English Majors Can Be Doctors Too, Mindshift May 28, 2015, Julie Rovner reports that New York's Mt. Sinai's medical school admits medical students from liberal arts programs as well as those from the science-oriented pre-med programs.

The HuMed program dates back to 1987, when Dr. Nathan Kase, who was dean of medical education at the time, wanted to do something about what had become known as pre-med syndrome. Schools across the country were worried that the striving for a straight-A report card and high test scores was actually producing sub-par doctors. Applicants — and, consequently, medical students — were too single-minded.

Kase, according to Muller, “really had a firm belief that you couldn’t be a good doctor and a well-rounded doctor — relate to patients and communicate with them — unless you really had a good grounding in the liberal arts.”

So Mount Sinai began accepting humanities majors from a handful of top-flight liberal arts schools after their second year of college. These students are expected to continue to follow their nonscientific interests for the remainder of their college careers.

Hmmm, a doctor who can relate to his/her patients? A doctor versed in the humanities rather than chemistry?

Despite the movement for STEM programs to transition to STEAM programs (adding an A for the Arts), I am concerned that our drive to turn every student into a computer programmer or engineer will fail to recognize that the understanding of human nature derived from reading literature, philosophy, history, and religion is critical.

  • I want my doctor to treat me as a whole human being, not simply an organism consisting of complex chemical reactions.
  • I want my computer programmers to understand the need for a human-oriented interface on the systems they design.
  • I want bridge engineers to look at both function and form and create structures that are safe and aesthetically appealing.

I would bet dollars to donuts, it will be the ability to relate technology/science/math to the human condition that will make tomorrow's workers job secure.


BFTP: A sign for every librarian's door

Or perhaps a sign for every educator's door...

Thanks to Jude Crook for her permission to use her idea!

Original post May 4, 2010.