Did you know? (Follow-up)

November 12, 2012 at 3:36 pm Leave a comment

Today I was reading about a psychologist who works with soldiers and veterans, trying to help them overcome the psychological damage that often results from war. But he doesn’t provide them with counseling. Instead, he is working on modifying gaming technology and artificial intelligence to help them. I don’t know if it will work. But I do know one thing about this: he would not be trying this idea out if he didn’t know something about psychology and something about IT.

There’s a moral to this little story. More and more, people who know about some aspect of IT are in a position to come up with creative new ideas that might turn out to be really useful in their field. This psychologist is not a computer programmer, or even some other sort of computer expert. His main education is in psychology. But he knows enough about IT to see a possible new application, and he can work as a member of a team to create that new application.

My own personal experience fits this model. While I was in graduate school studying Philosophy, I was employed by an IT firm working on trying to program a computer to be able to translate publications from Russian into English. I was not an IT expert, or a linguistics expert; I knew nothing about Russian. My job was to serve as a bridge between the programmers and the linguists on this project, because they could not understand each other. I knew enough about programming and about linguistics to be able to communicate with each side of the table.

This is the sort of thing that goes on all the time in today’s world, in many different fields, from business, to education, to government, to agriculture. If you know something more about IT than just how to use common software packages, you may very well find yourself being able to contribute in a creative and helpful way to whatever enterprise you are associated with. At a minimum you will know more about what questions to ask if someone else proposes an IT project.

So, my suggestion is to take some IT coursework, or else pursue IT knowledge seriously and systematically on your own. Presumably, the coursework is more likely to bring results unless you are really self-motivated. If you don’t do this in college, you may well find yourself having to scramble later on in order to stand out and be successful.

ISU offers a half-dozen different IT majors, some with multiple “flavors”, so if that’s your thing, go for it (get the pun?). But maybe for many, it’s a more a matter of trying out some IT courses in order to pick up a little background knowledge. There’s even a new one-credit course in easy programming for people who want to find out what that is like.

I’ll be writing again soon to give more details about actual majors and courses. In the meantime, as always, if you want to pop me an e-mail with your own questions, that’s fine: Kenton.Machina@ilstu.edu.


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