Archive for September, 2008
Dear Fifth Graders:
How do you do! I am the little book that you have made. I have many little stories. They are very interesting. I hope you will enjoy them. They may not be exactly like the works of the great authors, but they are your thoughts and word pictures and I am sure you will love them. Take good care of me and I will bring you many happy hours.
School No. 2
February 18, 1931
[From the wonderful single-topic site, Book of Short Stories.]
Previous research suggests that higher intelligence is related to better self-control, but the reasons for this link are unknown. Psychologists Noah A. Shamosh and Jeremy R. Gray, from Yale University, and their colleagues, were interested in testing the idea that certain brain regions supporting short-term memory play a critical role in this relationship.
The results show that participants with the greatest activation in the brain region known as the anterior prefrontal cortex also scored the highest on intelligence tests and exhibited the best self-control during the financial reward test. This was the only brain region to show this relation. The results appear in the September issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. [via PhysOrg]
A very wise educator taught me that impulsivity or the lack of ability to delay gratification reflects immaturity. He holds that children are more emotion-driven than intellect-driven, but that balance swings the other way with age. Once a person is an adult, the ability to defer gratification for a later, greater reward indicates maturity of development. This exactly correlates with the above findings,
“It has been known for some time that intelligence and self-control are related, but we didn’t know why. Our study implicates the function of a specific brain structure, the anterior prefrontal cortex, which is one of the last brain structures to fully mature,” said Dr. Shamosh [italics mine].
Here are the questions that we absolutely must ask:
- Is the ability to delay gratification solely a natural result of the chronological development of the anterior prefrontal cortex (the ability to wait develops naturally)? Or does it flow the other way, with exercise of self-control helping to mature the brain (practice makes perfect)?
- Do “external” conditions that negatively impact working memory (hormonal disruptions, physical illness, depression) also have a negative effect on self-control capacity?
- Is intelligence coincidentally correlated with the ability to delay gratification (for example, are intelligence and self-control controlled by the same brain structures?), or is there a functional relationship between the two (for example, does greater intelligence lead to greater self-control, or vice-versa?)? Alternatively, is the correlation an artifact of how we test intelligence?
And the “threatening questions” (I ought to copyright the term…):
- Does the electronic virtual environment in which so much time is spent actually inhibit or discourage the development of self-control skills?
- Could spending too much time as a child in virtual environments which usually provide instant gratification affect adult levels of intelligence?
- As a professional working to improve User Experience, is it possible that “making life easier” for people is actually doing them less of a favor than it is helping them? Am I destroying individual worlds while trying to “save the world”? (OK, I’m being a bit dramatic here, but I do feel strongly about design responsibility.)
“Greedy Mobile Interfaces”
It’s a sad but common sight in modern society – a person walking around in the world, utterly disengaged, head buried in a mobile device – a victim of the visually greedy mobile interface. […] Even the lauded and successful iPhone demands we disengage with the world and worship it’s visual luster during use.
[from Rachel Hinman’s Adaptive Path blog]
A great phrase: “greedy mobile interfaces”. When we were kids, parents went crazy from teenagers immersing themselves in Walkman earphones to the exclusion of the world around them. In fact, you might call the Sony Walkman the world’s first “greedy mobile interface”, even though it wasn’t visual. I’ve still got the original (blue and gray metal!) one that my dad brought back from Japan in a drawer here…
I didn’t know Lego Mindstorms now had an RFID module! Awesome. I’ve always wanted to get a set for
myself the kids, but who knew you could play Sumo with them? And how do those little bulldozers throw salt over their shoulders without trickling it in their eyes?
Let’s go! ichi… ni…
This is either an awesome hack, or a very clever marketing campaign on the part of Dreamworks. [via Urban Prankster]
…or, as the comments point out, a [possibly dangerous] act of vandalism.
Please, please tell me this is a joke. I’m first in line to demand a remote mobile interface… but really now…
Looking at the second page of description (see below) which claims to hook a fuel cell up to arteries and veins, I’m convinced it’s a hoax. Heck, even in the hospital they can’t leave a TPN or dialysis port open for long without risking serious system-wide infection.
Have a look at the Greener Gadgets Design Competition Site, though — there are some great ideas there (and none so gag-triggering as this one).
There’s a time and place for everything. Even for 3D technology (and hey, this is a big believer in 3D technology writing).
“Unique 3-D technology gives you the look and texture of a solid muscle chicken breast, at a fraction of the cost.”
Translation: chicken pieces compressed and glued together to look like a chicken breast with grill marks printed on.
[from Phil’s Concept to Consumer blog]
YES. Isn’t it great to see something well-designed and that is exactly what people need? (And wouldn’t designing “Shelter for 10 in a Box” be an awesome design class project?)
Definitely check out the Shelter Box website and consider making a donation. Shelter Box has aided more than 600,000 victims of disaster since 2001.
The Me vs. We culture awareness is taking off in a big way (ideas are like that…).
- serial-solidarity: it’s always easier to design something for sole use rather than shared use (although there is a big buzz about youtube, etc.). What this means that we see more and more people in the same place, doing the same things but apart. […]
- invisible technologies: pocketable is a step towards more important miniaturization: we’re going to not see a lot of technologies; because they disappear in the infrastructure. And when technologies disappear, the emphasis on social cues to make then explicit is even more and important.
What Jan refers to here as “serial solidarity” seems to me to be closely related to what psychologists and teachers call “parallel play” in young children — the developmental stage in which children play alongside, but not truly with, one another. (I was an elementary school teacher in a former life, remember?)
Too Much “Me”?
So let’s ask the threatening question: what is the effect on a child’s development when the play environment encourages staying “back” in a less mature stage of relationship? Are people hard-wired enough to just grow to the next stage of truly shared group interaction, anyway? Or will more and more kids grow up to be emotionally (and severely) immature?
Think, for example, of kids playing Nintendo DS games head-to-head via WiFi. On the one hand, there is a shared game, and vocalized communication (usually). On the other hand, each child sees a different view, and is essentially playing against electronic characters as he always does. Is this a group experience? Or a parallel play experience?
Too Much “We”?
On the flip side, one of my big concerns with the OLPC (One Laptop per Child) system is that it appears to be totally centered on a “We” model — every application is used collaboratively. Via the WiFi capability, users move in and out of work spaces, adding or contributing to the projects.
Perhaps collaborative work is good. Maybe it’s even great. Maybe it’s even the ideal educational environment. But has anyone tried it out in the field/classroom? When I asked the OLPC development team directly, they looked blank.
It scares me to think that the most vulnerable children on earth — the kids who will be receiving the OLPC units — are guinea pigs for a totally untested, not very thought-out new educational system.
Let’s be honest… these children aren’t going to have a wonderfully-trained teacher in a well-equipped classroom, access to books and toys, even daily access to mainstream media. The vast majority of their education will be the OLPC laptop collaborative environment.
What happens if you always learn and create projects collaboratively? Do you develop the skills and experience to independently plan and execute a project from start to finish? If not — here’s the threatening question — then are your skills employable? Do you have the abilities required to get a job in your local piece of the global economy?
As far as I can tell, no one asked these questions before shipping out OLPC laptops to kids who desperately need the boost to employability. As individuals who design products, we can lose sight of the true societal responsibility and global impact we all have in our work. Even when we’re working for the greater good, it’s easy to get lost in the rosy words, and forget that it all boils down to our impact on individual lives.