A few years ago, my monitor politely excused itself and blinked off forever. I looked in the back to make sure it was still plugged in. It was. I was stumped.
All discussions of technological singularities and transhumanism aside, technology undoubtedly confounds the majority of us daily with its constant innovation. The gap between user and developer has widened to the point that the machine I'm typing on right now might as well run on fairy excrement and happy thoughts for all I know.
“These days you go to Best Buy and get a computer, take it home and just plug the purple into the purple. Plug the white into the white,” Kerry Bruce, an instructor at the Computer Information Systems department at Central New Mexico Community College's School for Business & Information Technology, frowns at the thought. “People miss out on the learning process of how a computer works.”
We've met at a Barnes & Noble. Bruce chose this spot so he could get his hands on a copy of MagPi, a magazine that has been on the stands for less than 24 hours and has a computer smaller than a credit card stapled to the cover in a little baggie. It's a perfect example of the type of crazy, unforeseeable leaps in technology happening all the time, with or without our awareness.
Bruce is here to tell me why continuing education is indispensable to those in the tech industry, but I'm already convinced before he even opens his mouth. Trying to keep up with advancements in the field is frustrating to anyone without an onboard Google Alerts chip lodged in their prefrontal cortex (a product that I can only assume is already in beta testing somewhere out there in Crazyland).
Bruce is part of a team attempting to keep up with that mythical “cutting edge” you've heard so much about. One method is his new course called “The Internet of Things” (CIS 1096), modeled on Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture, which describes a synergistic teaching model bringing together students from different areas of the same field. “The Internet of Things” begins its inaugural run this week. “What I'm trying to do is integrate all of the different programs. I have coders in here, hardware people, network people, digital design people. We're going to put them all in a room, right?” He chuckles and his eyes gleam. “Then we'll just let them make things. And each one will learn from the other.”
Students will choose their own undertakings and will effectively create their own class. “I want them to be able to gravitate to a project that interests them. They're going to learn the underlying computing that they need to know in order to make that project happen and then show that project off in a showcase.”
Meanwhile, the rest of CIS is building the future with brand new courses in game development and robotics (the latter being built on a NASA grant). The standards—like web development, digital design and computer science—are all still there, too. Specialized courses can also be found at CNM's Workforce Training Center (like a class teaching you how to build your own 3D printer).
This is obviously where you should find yourself if you're looking to begin a career in technologies, or if you're a professional interested in learning about whatever amazing breakthroughs have happened since breakfast. But let's not forget the little people like you and me who still accidentally hit PM on the alarm most of the time. As our relationship to technology becomes more and more symbiotic, keeping up with new developments is absolutely crucial. Otherwise, we won't know what to do when the robots get the vote and take over.
For more info on the Computer Information Systems Department at the School for Business & Information Technology, visit their website.