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March 21, 2018

Does not compute

March 21, 2018

It’s not often that I feel absolutely confused at work. Yet, there I was, feeling completely lost – hopelessly, utterly lost. The good news is I wasn’t the only one. Two of my talented colleagues were right alongside me feeling like we had landed on some other planet where everything was completely different. We’re normally very quick learners who are willing to try just about any new program or skill – but not this time. We were completely flummoxed.  

We were attempting to learn what we thought was going to be something rather simple, as long as we had directions. Instead, we discovered we were wading deep into a land we knew nothing about – coding. (For the record, even a seasoned developer admitted it was really complicated.)

Gulp, Git, JSON, Terminal (which, for you Walking Dead fans, I kept calling Terminus) and more words that might as well have been in Mandarin. Our very patient developers helped us the best they could, but it was pretty apparent we were out of our league. We’re smart people, excellent editors and team players, but this was beyond what we expected. Though, in between fistfuls of Jelly Bellies to sustain us, we kept trying.

For someone who never had a computer class, I like to think I’m pretty good with them. I’m often the person people come to for help when they get stuck. This experience taught me that I might be pretty good using programs, but there’s a whole lot more to computers than that.

And while that experience kind of made me want to crawl under my desk in a fetal position, I still really do love the convenience of computers. Even at their slowest, they really do make life a lot easier. One of my favorite things about computer technology is the ability to converse with my kid using Facetime. When she was in college in Europe, it did this mama’s heart good to be able to actually see that she was OK across the pond.

That kind of face-to-face engagement was really important to me, and has also been found to be really important in enhancing distance learning. But here at MSU, we’ve taken it one step, or really one roll, further by using robots on wheels that move around a classroom while displaying a student from afar onscreen. Check out the MSUToday FEATURE: Enhancing learning with robots, to watch a video showing how it all works. It’s pretty darn cool.

The research project is led by Christine Greenhow, an associate professor of educational psychology and educational technology. Questions about student engagement, reaching students, feeling connected, accessibility, interactivity and fun drive her research on social media and new technologies. Check out her FACULTY VOICE: Harnessing technology to solve educational problems, to learn more about her fascinating work.

Using technology for accessibility, mobility and interactivity was key to allowing the world to learn from one of the brightest physicists we’ve ever seen, Stephen Hawking, who died last week. Another ridiculously smart physicist, MSU’s own Chris Adami, took some time after Hawking’s passing to reflect on his work. Check out his FACULTY VOICE: Remembering Stephen Hawking, to learn more.

Technology and computers certainly make being a student easier, but opportunities don’t only come from laptops and phones. Real life experiences, in the form of internships, are key to a well-rounded, quality education. MSU senior Calla Michalak took advantage of two opportunities to learn that working in medically underserved communities was the career path for her. Read her STUDENT VIEW: Where I’ve been, where I’m going, to learn why her program director says, “Calla has made the absolute most of her education here at MSU.”

I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention one more thing that did not compute this week – the Spartan’s losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Many prognosticators had them going all the way this year so it was a disappointment to see them out this early. But, like true Spartans, we dust ourselves off and look toward the future.

While I couldn’t figure out the sets of numbers and letters staring at me from a computer screen this week, I do know one thing that will always compute – Spartans just don’t give up. Even when the chips are down and we experience loss, we’re always looking for the wins around the corner. On the court, in the classroom, in the lab or in the field, the power of Spartans add up to better tomorrows for all of us. Spartans Will.  

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday
twitter bird@LMulcrone

Photo by Derrick L. Turner


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