Put Down Your Laptops, Pick Up Your Pencils

Silicon Valley may find this all too hard to believe, but researchers are now finding that bringing your laptop to class and typing your notes verbatim as the professor speaks, may actually undermine the learning process. Typing out your handwritten notes later on your preferred digital device may be the better practice to reinforce your retention of material that has been presented in class.

“But a growing body of evidence shows that over all, college students learn less when they use computers or tablets during lectures. They also tend to earn worse grades. The research is unequivocal: Laptops distract from learning, both for users and for those around them. It’s not much of a leap to expect that electronics also undermine learning in high school classrooms or that they hurt productivity in meetings and in all kinds of workplaces (Dynarski, University of Michigan, 2017).”

I guess it’s time to sharpen our pencils, and put our “thinking caps” back on!

Ray Myers

P.S. I will be posting again on next Wednesday, December 6. In the meantime, please have a look at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India.


My Peace Corps Story – 50 Years Later

Thanks to Tyler Lloyd for this opportunity to revisit my Peace Corps years. Please visit his site, mypeacecorpsstory.com, where he has posted our interview, and his conversations with many other Volunteers, who have served or are currently serving in tin different parts of the world. Thanks to technology, he is able to reach out across the globe to record his stories and share them on the web.

The connections available to us during our time in India were very limited. If there were family emergencies back in the States, Peace Corps country headquarters could assist through resources available through the American embassy in New Delhi. In most instances, we were left to our own devices which, for me, largely consisted of sending international aerogrammes through the local post office (they actually did reach the States in most instances, some friends saved them). I am not sure they would be very interesting reading for anyone now, but they were our basic means of staying in touch over our two years of service. Some friends would also send tape recordings of messages and popular music. At that time we were also getting a steady dose of new British rock groups’ music; the Beatles were on the top of the list. I think I heard “Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” almost every day for two years. We also had a short-wave radio and were also able to listen to the BBC and Voice of America on occasion. No TV.

I hope you will enjoy listening to “My Peace Corps Story.” And thank you, President Kennedy.

Ray Myers

Tips to Get Teens to Put Down Smartphones

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I know it’s still three days away, but I will not be posting a blog message again until next Monday. Please have safe travels and enjoy your time with family and friends. Last Friday I did blog about some recent findings on the possible detrimental effects of too much time on smartphones for our preschool and school-age children. Now for some more helpful tips from child developmental researchers.

Keep Devices Out of Kids Bedrooms Kids need more more sleep than grown ups. Taking away a child’s phone at bedtime can be a battle, but it’s worth the fight.

Set Online Firewalls and Data Cutoffs A young person’s brain is wired for exploration and, to some extent, thrill-seeking – not restraint. Most devices and internet providers, as well as some apps, offer parenting tools and restrict access to problematic content and curb data use. Take advantage of them.

Create a Device Contract These rules could include no Smartphones at the dinner table or no more than a hour of social media use after school. If a child violates the rules, he or she should lose the phone for a period of time.

Model Healthy Device Behaviors Just as kids struggle to stay off of their phones, so do parents. And if you are a phone junkie yourself, you can’t expect your kids to be any different. Apart from putting you own phone away while driving or during mealtimes (Thanksgiving!), it’s important to recognize that your kids also see what you put online.

Consider Old-school Flip Phones Kids can always access social media or video from home computers or tablets during their free time. But when they’re out in the world, they won’t be tempted with all-the-time access to screen-based distractions.

Have a happy, text-free Thanksgiving dinner. Will be back next Monday. Enjoy!

Ray Myers

Kids and Smartphones

We really don’t know what the long-term effects of “mobile technology” will be on our current school-age and under school-age generations in America (and the world?). Unfortunately, much of the preliminary data suggest that we have to do something to control its indiscriminate and obsessive use. “What this generation is going through right now with technology is a giant experiment (Jensen, University of Pennsylvania).”

As researchers debate appropriate public health messaging, kids are receiving their first smartphones at even younger ages – the average is 10, according to one recent estimate – and they’re spending more and more time on their devices. “I am probably on my phone 10 hours a day,” says Santiago Potocnik Senarahi, a 16-year-old 11th grader in Denver. Even when he’s not using his phone, it’s always with him, and he never considers taking a break. “This is part of my life and part of my work, and [that] means I need to be in constant contact.” “The more we learn about kids and Smartphones, the more we’re going to see that limiting their exposure is a good idea (Twenge, San Diego State University).”

I will be back on Monday with a list of some “Tips the Get Teens to Put Down Their Smartphones.” And maybe these tips will also help some of us in the “older generations?”

Ray Myers

Technology and Young Eyes – Go Outdoors!

Maybe you worry about your children spending so much time in front of computer screens that it has a detrimental effect on their vision. The ready availability of technology may make the children of today faster at configuring a new smartphone, but does all of that screen time affect the development of their vision? As reported in recent research by two optometrists at Ohio State University (Zadnik & Mutti), another factor may be a more critical factor.

To their surprise, more time outdoors has a protective effect and reduced the chances that a child would go on to need myopic refractive correction. Without reporting on all the research that has gone into this determination, here is the dominant theory or conclusion: “The brighter light outside stimulates the release of dopamine from the specialized cells in the retina. Dopamine then initiates a molecular signaling cascade that ends with slower, normal growth of the eye, which means no myopia.” Actual light exposure, not just a decrease in the time spent reading because children are outdoors is the explanation for this “magic.”

No one before has ever said playing outside could help you prevent or minimize nearsightedness? I should have spent more time time playing outside when I was younger. In my case it was not the computer screen that intrigued me. It was TV.

Ray Myers

Call Centers Come Home

I was always intrigued with the fact that I could be talking to someone in an Indian call center when I needed some type of customer service with practically anything I owned. I had lived and worked in northern Mysore State (now Karnataka), of which Bangalore is the capital city. Thanks to the technology of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, this was now all possible. When I worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in India in the mid-sixties, international telephone connections were not what they are today. But with the advent of the Internet and world-wide connectivity, we are now able to “reach out” to someone anytime anywhere.

India offered a highly educated English-speaking workforce who were proficient in communicating in English, but unfortunately still faced a barrier when in came to American English nuance and even pronunciation. There were economic advantages, of course, to contracting offshore for customer service for American companies in those early days. Now with the ubiquity of technology and connectivity at bargain rates across the States and in other English-speaking parts of the world, American companies can now begin to capitalize on the use of native American English speakers catering to the an almost exclusive American clientele. The reality is that most Americans are frankly much more comfortable speaking with “one of their own,” especially when you are talking about making a business transaction. But maybe I’m wrong?

Roughly three million Americans work as customer service representatives in call centers and home offices across the United States. I am sure that there is also a huge economic benefit to these American companies. Home sweet home!

Ray Myers

Procedural Failures May Kill You, Seriously!

Sorry for the late posting today.  Things got busy at home.  Here goes.  The Air Force says it failed to follow policies for alerting federal law enforcement about Devin P. Kelley’s  violent past, enabling the former service member, who killed at least 26 churchgoers Sunday in Sutherland Springs, Tex., to obtain firearms before the shooting rampage.

“Initial information indicates that Kelley’s domestic violence offense was not entered onto the National Criminal Information Center database.”  Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff General David Goldfein have directed an investigation of Kelly’s case and relevant policies and procedures.  Somehow this National Criminal Center database did not have all the information about Kelley that was supposed to be in it.  Otherwise he would never have been able to buy the massive amounts of weapons he possessed.  A “data entry” problem you say?  U.S. Senators Gillibrand and Blumenthal suspect more than that. Discussions around “Big Data” repositories are all the rage in our increasingly data-driven world.  But all this data is only as good as the competence of those persons overseeing and managing its thoroughness and accuracy.   Relevant data can not be allowed to slip through the cracks, resulting in deadly consequences for innocent Americans.  

Whatever “procedural missteps” that occurred here will certainly be identified and corrected in time, but I believe that the larger issue still remains with our obsession over the right to bear arms.  For anyone?

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will be back next Monday, November 13.  Observing Veterans’ Day on Friday.

Sex Trafficking on Social Media

Just say “no.”  Remember that one.  It was a slogan used by the federal government in the Reagan days to combat drug trafficking. Thank you Nancy Reagan.  Now we have the Internet and social media at our disposal if we chose to “traffic” in illegal activities.  Sex trafficking is one of the more flagrant abuses that, up to now, has gone unchecked.  Congress has now gotten involved, enacting legislation that will hold online sex traffickers accountable and help give trafficking survivors the justice they deserve.

Tech titans such as Facebook, Twitter and Google have finally relented and agreed to grant victims the ability to secure the justice they deserve, allow Internet platforms to continue their work combatting human trafficking, and protect good actors in the ecosystem.  It will hold online sex traffickers accountable and give trafficking survivors the justice they deserve.  Consumer advocates said that the law also put bigger media companies on notice as well.

In reality, and perhaps unfortunately, the Internet of Things can be whatever we humans make of it.

Ray Myers

Trump Tweets While We Burn

I used to think that tweeting was just for fun.  You really don’t have to think too hard and if you can learn all the abbreviations and other Twitter short-cuts, you can really pack a lot of thoughts (?) in those 140/280 characters.  I never really thought you could become president of the United States by doing this?  Well I guess I am wrong again.  I suppose we have all been “trumped,” at least those of us who may have voted for another candidate in last year’s election.  You know who you are.

Trump has used his Twitter account since March 2009.  He has tweeted more than 36,000 times and has 41.7 million followers. Trump has credited his use of social media as among one of the main reasons he was elected.  “You have to keep people interested also.  You know, you have to keep people interested.”  Twitter also serves as one of Trump’s main tools for deflecting criticisms and attacks.  He has said, “When somebody says something about me, I am able to go bing, bing, bing, and I take care of it.”  Trump’s Twitter account was deactivated for 11 minutes Thursday night by a company employee on his last day on the job. Maybe he/she was just trying to exert some type of “executive privilege.”

Or perhaps he/she was just trying to fact check some of  Trump’s tweets, in which case the “fake facts” just overloaded the system.

Ray Myers