Technology and Relationships

Sharing is caring!

I found myself really fascinated by this article about the development of respiratory ventilators. It does a really good job in walking the reader through the history of the development of medical apparatuses to support breathing.

Two things really stuck out for me.

The first is that the first major hurdle in developing these types of devices was a conceptual one — and not a technological one. In order to help patients breathe, we needed to understand how breathing works.

The lungs receive the breath, yes, but they don’t breathe, the verb, the action. Breathing takes muscle – specifically, the diaphragm, the thin dome of muscle nested at the base of the lungs. Relaxed, the diaphragm forms two shallow upside-down bowls, one beneath each lung. To cue an inhale, the diaphragm contracts. The upside-down bowls flatten into upside-down plates. The diaphragm takes up less space in the chest cavity, leaving a void, and air rushes into the nose and mouth, filling that space. That expands the lungs, equalising the pressure in the chest. The diaphragm relaxes, the plates rise into bowls, and an exhale follows.


In other words, the solution was not a technical one; it was a heuristic one.

The second was the description of human ventilators, something I had never heard of before. Check this out:

Medical students became human ‘ventilators’, in the same way that NASA’s mathematicians were human calculators. Some 1,500 students worked six- to eight-hour shifts, with a 10-minute smoke-break every hour. Students kept the same patient assignments day after day, until their patient either breathed alone, or died.

And here’s what nearly stopped my own breathing:

Students and patients formed close bonds, because their patients stayed conscious.

As with most things, this made me think about learning environments of various kinds, especially in this moment of COVID-19 impelled remote learning.

Much of what I am reading is about technological solutions to learning, as though (like we didn’t with breathing) we fully understand and have a shared understanding about what learning is and how it works.

Also, what about looking further into the various relationships that shape learning and the factors that affect them?