Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Take a place in the cyber race

One of the things I like about my current job is that I am learning new skills, particularly on the computer. There is a program that they use here to put together the web-based training courses, and for me it is fun to learn. When I actually get something to work, like “click here and a picture will appear” I get all excited and feel like doing a little dance in the cubicle aisleway. Ok, a couple of times I have actually done that. And of course the reaction is lots of eye rolling and suggestions that I get a life. But you know the feeling, it’s like when band-aids used to have that little red string on them and you would try and try to get it to work right and then finally one would rip open the right way and it was thrilling. Well for me it was! And now they don’t make them that way anymore anyways.

So when I completed my first course I showed it to my family on my laptop computer. They acted appropriately impressed although what else could they say when I was standing there beaming with pride in my big accomplishment. Timmy was interested in the way a little box popped up telling you if a question was answered right or wrong in the quiz at the end. A minute later he called me over to our home computer where he showed my how he could duplicate the html code that caused those boxes to appear. Drrr.

I mention this not to brag on my kid (although I am always happy to do that) but because it exemplifies the vast difference between the knowledge and abilities of the generations when it comes to computers. I came across an article recently that listed out the skills that will be typical of children at certain grade levels in the future, and it included things like “create an animation” that I am only just learning and my kids already know. It’s a reversal of the older people with more experience being ahead of the younger ones. When it comes to the workplace it’s clear that some of us are going to have to row pretty hard to stay ahead in the race.

I like to think that because I am open minded to learning new things that I can consider myself rather hip and happening when it comes to cyberspace. After all, I have a BLOG! I can email and IM and am learning how to do things with pictures. But not everyone aspires to this. Last month at Thanksgiving I was sitting there eating pistachios with my brother-in-law Mark and listening to my Mother and my Aunt Judy have a conversation about using computers. They were agreeing with each other about how confusing it all is, and their lack of desire to know how to do anything. Aunt Judy has email because she had to have it for her job, but my mother just shuns all of it. At least I am safe from ever having her read my blog, but I find the aversion to even try it on her part exasperating. When my other brother-in-law Hal walked in Mark and I shouted out warnings to him not to listen to this conversation or his head might explode. Hal is the kind of person that figures out how to do things just for the fun of it.

And then this past weekend we were at a party with my old sorority sisters from college and their families. A group of us girls were sitting in the dining room over dessert talking about maybe planning a trip together and the hostess pulled over her laptop and tried to look up some information. She was struggling with it which turned into a conversation about how hard it is to do things on computers and some of the other women complained that they had been applying for jobs and how inconvenient it was to have to fill out online applications. Our hostess is going to nursing school right now and is feeling very proud and important about that, but acted mystified about some online registration procedures she needed to know. YEE GADS! They were having the old lady “Dang these newfangled contraptions” conversation! Like on Thanksgiving all over again except that these are my PEERS, the very people I graduated from college with, ready to take on the world with our degrees in hand and our ambitions high. And now here they were ready to close themselves off from the very thing that could propel them to success as they move forward with their lives activities. Because I care deeply about these women and want all the best for them, I think I said something to the effect of suggesting that they embrace the technology and be open to learning it. “Well I don’t need to know computers to SAVE LIVES” was the response I got from the nursing student. But you do, possibly to save your own, I thought.

So I worry that the world soon be split into two categories of those who will or won’t embrace technology as it comes at us fast, which has been going on for the past 100 years. You can choose to be like the Clampett family marveling at the cee-ment pond, or go and find out what all this stuff does and how your life could be better for knowing about it. Of course I don’t mean YOU, if you’re reading this you are already in the game as far as I’m concerned. But I do wonder what defines that line of separation. It isn’t age, because I can to point to old Bob at work, 67 years old and able not only to figure out all of the ever-changing online processes over here but can teach them to others as well. It could be a gender thing because Bob doesn’t have a computer at home for his wife. But then how do you explain the difference between my mother and her sisters Chris and Kathy? I don’t think it’s intelligence either. It must be attitude then.

So somebody out there please keep an eye on me that I don’t become like that some day, clinging to the easy ways of the past and hoping that all the new stuff just goes away. It’s easy enough to do but when grandparents miss out on the chance to see pictures of their out of state grandkids in their Halloween costumes that same day, it’s a shame all around.

Sorry this is so long and ranty. I’m going to go now and try to figure out how to unlock the security codes Hal put on our wireless modem so I can get rid of the big blue cord running across our dining room.

And if anyone ever gets a cut and the only thing around is a 20 year old band-aid still in the wrapper, let me know I’ll be right there to help.


Heather Leigh said...

I remember those band-aids!!

What I find challenging are all the little gadgets and gizmos (just typing that makes me feel old) like MP3s and iPods and iPhones and texting and sending videos and pics from your phone. My old, outdated cell phone can do so much more than I use it for. I use it to TALK to people. Imagine that.

Anonymous said...

Hoo-Ray!!!! Mindy mentioned me by name in her blog! In a positive way!!I thought that you were already the generation who grew up with computers and could catch on fast- this blog was a revelation. But I believe that we are still at the tip of the iceberg for cyber world. It shouldn't be long before keyboards are antiques and all the things that Heather mentions in her comment will be handled with voice commands or- why not- thought commands? Will we have a choice where they implant the chip?
love from Aunt Chris(who doesn't need ipod as she has so many silver fillings in her teeth that she picks up radio station music).

~Amy said...

I hope your friend going to nursing school realizes that just about everything in the hopital setting is run using computers!! A lot of private offices are even converting to electronic/computerized records!! So to answer her question...YES you do need to know how to use a computer to save lives.

Aunt Kathy said...

Amy is right. My favorite part of nursing is being at the bedside handling the babies assigned to me, but I am their advocate. I look on the computer all the time for lab results etc. and I must handle all the monitors, IV pumps,ventilators,
medfusion pumps, and other equipment with ease. It's a high tech job, but very rewarding.

Pam said...

As one of the women that should have been at the table (sorry I missed), I can't imagine a life without computers and especially the internet.

The net has allowed me to 'lurk' in the lives of my college friends - Mindy and Rachel. And as importantly it is my window to the entire planet. I speak regularly with a gentleman in Australia, customers in Ireland and a friend in Greece. The internet has allowed me to be a global citizen.