I Am So “Not Ready for This”

So many times yesterday, I was reminded that this was my day to write for Technology & Learning, but more often than that I was swept away from thoughts of my responsibilities and normal practices.  I arrived in Shanghai, in late morning on Saturday.  Of course, in Shanghai time, there were only a few fleeting hours left to February 11, a day that I almost completely skipped in my long hours over the Pacific.

It would simply be impossible to capture in one picture the vastness of this city.  It’s like New York City — on speed.
One of these players is actually a famous gamer.
Multiply this times a hundred, and you begin to get a sense of it.

I’ve been here one full day now, having conducted four workshops for the Shanghai American School, at the request of tech visionary, Jeff Utecht — a man with far more youth and energy than me.  The work has gone well, and my energy has been what was needed, exploring the qualities and instructional applications of digital content and one session on video games in education.  But twice, since I’ve been here, I have experienced a sickness that I’ve never felt before.  The only way that I can phrase it is Sensory Overload.  Each time we drove through what I guess would be considered downtown, there has been so much to see, so many lights, so much diverse architecture, so many people, so much vastness in technology (speeding European Sedans along side people pedaling ancient bicycles with huge bundles strapped to them) so incredibly much energy, that my body just wants to shut down.  I can feel myself demanding to just go to sleep.  It’s a peculiar feeling.

Last night, Jeff and I went downtown to, what I can only describe as a tech mall.  It was a single building (well two of them actually) that was floor after floor of nothing but tech booths.  It’s like a flee market, but shinier, flashier, and millions of times more energy.  I was so overwhelmed.  Now I can’t believe that I did not take advantage of some of the amazing deals that we saw.  I just wanted to get out of there.  Not only were we the only Westerners in that building, but I was, by far, the oldest person there.  Everyone was looking at this ancient man.

Outside, we encountered something that I simply can’t characterize with any label or phrase.  It was a tent, of sorts, with nearly a hundred youngsters gathered around.  The material was red with many Chinese characters and chubby little pink cartoon people.  We approached the tent and I lifted Jeff’s camera (I forgot mine) up and took a picture, bringing it back down to see that inside the tent were six or seven youngsters, intensely playing video games.  There was a huge widescreen display out front where people were watching the play.  It has never been so clear to me how much I do not understand this video game experience.  It is so social and so talked about, especially over here.  Jeff and I worked our way around to the side where we could see better.  While there, a young man walked up and asked where we were from, perhaps thinking that we were journalists.  Jeff told him that we were from the American School, and asked him a few questions.  What a podcast worthy moment.  The young man built and maintains one of the biggest gaming web sites in the country.  What I could have learned from talking with him, but, again, sensory overload.

I’m trying to reflect on this experience, to reduce it down to something that I can express to help us think about our future and our preparations for our future in a way that better addresses this flattening world.  But there is simply too much energy for me to relax and think.

Anyway, I was able to put some words down here!  Because as I awoke this morning, I realized that it is still only mid-afternoon in the U.S. and still time for me to post my blog on the TechLearning web site.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.