This past weekend was the 2012 National Day of Unplugging. The idea was that participants leave all technology behind for a day. They turn off cell phones, unplug the TV, leave the computer powered down, take the tablet out of their bag, and just generally unplug (as the name suggests). The concept is that, as humans, we all need time to rest. This time of rest can help us rebalance; focus more on ourselves and the world around us.
An experiment last year found that many people who give up technology for a day experience a similar reaction to that of smokers who give up smoking for a day: fidgety, isolated, anxious, like they were missing a part of themselves. However, other studies have shown that people who gave up technology for a day felt much more at peace by the end, as well as showing noticeable advances in school and work. Other studies have found that TV and technology can account for a large proportion of the attention disorders that are growing among children in recent years. Disorders such as depression, ADHD, sleep problems, autism, and sensory processing disorders have been linked by research to overuse of technology.
I am not advocating selling your iPhone or moving your TV to basement storage. I couldn’t do my work without a computer, would feel horribly isolated without my phone, and am rather nervous in complete silence. However, there is a time and a place for everything. As a culture, we may be overusing technology, and a designated day to step back from it all could be extremely beneficial. All things have a time and a place, and technology used responsibly can be a huge benefit to individuals and to society. However, with all things, moderation is the key to success. Even though the 2010 designated day has passed – give it a try.
Daylight savings change-over means - for many of us – that we are waking up in the dark again. However, the larger portion of our day is spent in daylight, even here in the northland. A couple months ago, at this time, the sun would be well on its way to setting. Being this far north, we have more dark-time in the winter than more southerly locals. This is due to the earth’s tilt. One of the effects of this is that more northern populations have a higher number of individuals with Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is a condition in which individuals experience mood changes and depression – severe enough to affect their daily lives - due to lack of sunlight.
Sunlight, more than just cheering you up, can have a measurable effect on your happiness as well as your heath and skin. Sunlight also has an immeasurable impact upon your stress and learning levels. A study in 1951 of 160,000 school kids found that artificial, particularly fluorescent, lighting could negatively impact not only one’s learning under those conditions but also one’s ability to learn. A 2007 study of 21,000 students found that students in classrooms with the best natural light scored 20-26 percent higher on math and reading tests. Most school districts would find a 5% increase in test scores phenomenal, for comparison.
The lengthening of days and the improvement in the weather should make learning easier and reduce stress levels. After a weekend of outdoor activities, I know I feel better than I have in months! So I suggest you take some time to get outside, or just sit by a window and read a book. (Sunlight is easier on the eyes, too!)
Image – http://bit.ly/zQqmrR
March is Women’s history month. Today I’ll be talking about some influential women in the history of technology. For many years, women were discouraged from engaging in more scientific or technological fields. Even so, there have been intrepid women who pioneered and advanced their fields throughout the years.
-Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace was an English writer in the mid- nineteenth century. In her writings about Charles Babbage’s analytics engine, she included the first algorithm intended for machine processing, making her the world’s first computer programmer.
-Grace Hopper was a mathematician and was one of the first computer technicians in the history of the world! She coined the phrase “computer bug” after finding a moth stuck to a relay in the original Mark I naval computer.
-In 1968 the first woman ever in the United States was granted a PhD in computer sciences. Barbara Liskov was also the first female head of MIT’s computer sciences department, a position she held for 30 years, while also raising a family.
-Francis Elizabeth Holberton was a colleague of Grace Hopper’s and was also hired to help work on the ENIAC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ENIAC) computer system language, the basis from which all our modern computers are built.