It’s a beautiful spring day here in Christiansburg, VA. It rained all morning, and we have had a few brief, gentle showers since. But not right now. The sun is starting to peek out again and I can see the puffy remains of dark storm clouds rolling away across the sky. These last few days, the landscape has changed rapidly. Flowers are are blooming on pretty pink and white ornamental trees. The world is becoming bright green as new buds appear following the grey Appalachian winter. I can hear songbirds outside my open window, and for the first time in a long time, the nature sounds are louder than the sounds of the bustling traffic.
I’m working from home today. This is made possible by so many technologies working together for me. The use of technology has become so common for people these days–people walk around with smartphones and perhaps take for granted that the first computers were quite large. It is staggering when you start thinking about the amount of research and innovation it took to get us where we are with tech and devices.
Through the powers of electricity, computers, programming, and the internet, I can share with you my experience of sitting at my desk while reflecting and creating this piece of writing. It’s wild when you start thinking about it: 100 years ago, would anyone have been able to guess that people in the year 2017 would be able to share ideas and do business across all corners of the world in an instant? Who knows?
The way we do research today has also evolved as technology has become more advanced. The library is still the central steward of knowledge. Once they were just rooms or buildings filled with books and other artifacts, but now they are so much more. There is still great value in being able to go physically into a library, draw a book down from it’s place on the shelf, and check it out. Yet this is not the only way to learn and share knowledge today. We share billions (and billions) of bits of information online and circulate knowledge digitally through databases, servers, and other various platforms.
I give credit to higher education. The whole machine: not just the research, access to publications, the classrooms and labs, or the teaching; but also the questions, the students, faculty, and staff themselves that enable this good work to be done.
We have the ability to teach and learn remotely: students attend school with robots and are able to participate in class and communicate with their peers. The way we learn in classrooms is also changing: interactive smartboards are now the standard in Virginia Tech classrooms. Future technologies promise to deliver even more innovations in learning and creating new ideas. It is exciting to think about where we might be in another 100 years.