Keep Auto Update and Step Out Your Comfort Zone

When I got my first laptop in 2007, I found that every few days a small window popped up telling me that some software or system drivers would be updated during next boot. This was quite annoying since it made the startup period extremely long, and several reboots could occur during the installation process. In the end, I changed the “Auto Update” to “Notify Me When an Update is Available” option and enjoyed a peaceful and undisturbed working environment. Once a while, I would check the update list and only selected those that seemed to be necessary for my laptop. The available updates accumulated over the time, and eventually I gave up checking the list. Luckily, things went on smoothly for the following year, and I gradually forgot about all these update issues.

In 2009, I was dragged into the World of Warcraft by my classmates and became a little abscessed with this fascinating world. However, upon installation, I could not open the game client properly. With the help of my roommate, I finally found out that the problem was my outdated video driver. It required substantial upgrade (about 2 hours) to meet the minimum requirement for this game. I spent the rest of that day updating lots of my software and other patches and thrilled to discover lots of new and easy-to-use functions in my current software. The computer also ran much faster due to some major optimization in operation system.

Computer is a simplified version of our human brain, and it needs our humans to turn on the “Auto Update” function to achieve continuous evolving. Without this major learning process (i.e. installation of various patches), computers will not be compatible with many new software or games and may be abandoned in the end. For our humans, we are lucky enough having direct control to our own brain and can easily embrace all the changes and new knowledge via continuous learning. In order to keep up with this digital era, we should hold an open mind to all the new things. For example, my parents have never used a smartphone before, and in their mind phone should only be used to contact someone. Once I introduced all the fancy new functions on the smartphone, my parents were amazed by the all the convenience this tiny device could bring. Last year when I got back home for Christmas, my parents taught themselves of all the new functions on smartphone. Right now, with the help of a smartphone, they can easily purchase anything with “Alipay” without concerning short of cash or receiving forged note. This is an example of how technology can change our life, but it can only happen when you embrace it positively.

(click on this figure to be directed to the original source)

I know keep learning new things can be scary to someone, considering this process always start with stepping of your comfort zone. But in higher education, you need to stay on the “same page” with most of the people. For example, our graduate students need to read new research papers every week or even every day to absorb new knowledge. To me, I can keep my mind at its best state and come up with lots of fresh research ideas via timely “upgrade”. So don’t turn off your “Auto Update” function, stay positive, be brave enough to step out of your comfort zone, and embrace changes and new knowledge with passion. This is when the magic can happen in this digital era.

6 Comments on “Keep Auto Update and Step Out Your Comfort Zone

  1. I appreciate the analogy between the autoupdate and teaching/learning, but there is one point worth considering. For those of us in the social sciences – my graduate training is in political science – need to be convinced that whatever suggestion or technology will, in fact, improve my teaching or the learning of my students. This does not mean that I am a luddite or that I shut down all change, but I want to reflect on and consider changes or experimentation with different platforms or teaching in the classroom. My preference is to avoid sweeping changes, but to take things step by step to ensure that I am deliberate with each change. Just like I wouldn’t install Google Duo if it offers the same functionality and I already use Facetime, WhatsApp, WeChat, or Skype. While at some point I may want to explore Google Duo, it hasn’t convinced me it will improve my life.

    My point is to ensure that the adoption of technology or platforms or even teaching techniques are very much on my terms – rather than the imperatives of the companies that developed the platforms or their advocates. I say this not to refute your point or to challenge the adoption of new technologies, platforms, or teaching tools, but to merely explain my perspective in the adoption of platforms or other devices. Just like your parents, I concluded that certain techniques or platforms offer new ways of learning for my students, and thus I have implemented those in my course, but this does not mean I will jump in head-first to trying everything. I need to be deliberate, thoughtful, and have a purpose in trying it.

  2. I really enjoyed the analogies you have made, such as the update of a computer and the update of a researcher. It demonstrates the benefits of “auto-update” so well. Being afraid of changes or avoiding dissonance will do no good but just harm.

  3. It’s hard to step out the comfort zone since it’s so comfort to stay in it. Haha

    I really like the story you posted about your parents using the smart phone. It’s exactly a great example of how self-teaching happens in our daily life. In my opinion, it is quite important that you showed them how wonderful a smart phone is. And this motivated them to explore more by themselves. Sometimes people just need a little push from outside to step out.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your post. I totally agree with you how we do not like to step out of our comfort zone because there is so much uncertainty that we do not want to deal with. As humans, we are all afraid of failures but aren’t failures the gateway for success?

  5. I love the way you build out the metaphor in your post, but wonder if “coffeeseltzer’s” point isn’t also valid. Maybe we can find a mindful balance between embracing change, expanding our comfort zones and doing so with attention to the potential risks as well as the rewards?

  6. I really enjoyed the post and there has been a lot of great discussions. To reach that balance that A. Nelson described, maybe we first need to have an awareness of the various options and expand our view of what is around us. Once we have this awareness, we can then evaluate the risks and rewards before adopting a change. Too often, I feel like I don’t know what approaches are out there. Being open to things outside of my comfort zone doesn’t mean that I have to adopt a particular approach. But once I am aware of something, I can make a conscious decision.

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