quick thought

On a Storage Shoestring

During my Masters, and then later during my PhD, I learned how to use the typesetting software LaTeX in order to write my dissertation and thesis. If you ever looked at a maths or sciencey thesis and thought, “How did they do all the equations and stuff?” the answer is LaTeX. At times, writing up was tough; not because the subject matter was difficult or because I was learning LaTeX as I went, but because we were given 20Mb of storage to cover all of our data requirements at the university. Stop for a second and think about the capacity of the SD card in your phone. 20Mb was a microscopic amount of storage to process images, files and so on to produce a dissertation.

The Point

In 2002/3, the computing services department weren’t even meeting the current needs of some students, let alone the future needs. And this is, in some ways, in a trivial, supportive area. The world is changing, and the joys and challenges of living in that world change with it. In some parts of education, what is taught – or the provisions that support teaching – isn’t adequate for today, nevermind for the future.

There are obvious gaps in past educations, particularly when you think about how people cope with change – and how they’ve coped with change. A person in their 50s-or-thereabouts stopped me on the street and asked for directions a few days ago. In their hand they clutched a smartphone, but they hadn’t thought about looking up a map. When I got Google Maps up they thought it was fancy. I’m not making fun of them, I’m simply pointing out that they had missed a tool in their arsenal (perhaps, that’s my interpretation).

Nearly every day I wonder if my daughter is going to get an education that helps her to deal with the enormous technological, social and (probable) environmental changes that are going to come in her lifetime? Have I had an education so far that will help me deal with it???

The Real Point

When I think about all of this I realise that a lot of it is outside of my control (echoing the previous post); but in the work that I do, maybe there are things that I could do to help. Postgraduate researchers are necessarily talented to be in the position that they are in. But they are not at the end of a learning journey, and a doctoral programme is not only about research in a particular field. If PGRs are the best of the best, what skills, development, training or knowledge interventions can be done to help them be “future capable”? If future-proofing is likely to be doomed because we can’t anticipate it well enough, then what can we do to help postgraduate researchers be more adaptable and responsive to real change?

What do you think? Any ideas? Any initiatives or ideas out there already in this are?

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)