Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Technobabble, or the story of the mechanic who thinks

That would have been a decent name for my blog--but alas, I wasn't thinking too straight when I named this thing--and really, I have talked more politics than techno. Tech has been keeping me busy lately. I usually get some time during the day to puruse the blogs, some of which are directly related to my work. I wear a lot of different hats at work. My official title is Sr. Instructional Technologist, which doesn't mean much really. In theory, I am supposed to support the faculty in their use of technology in the classroom. What I find is the faculty who are using technology don't need/want my help and the ones who aren't don't want to use it. Some of them end up being forced to use it, then call me when they don't know what they're doing. Although I have a lot of programs in place and I do a lot of outreach for the faculty, I end up with time to do other things--like web development and multimedia development.

Today my hats were more varied than usual. First, I attended a search committee meeting for head of our Art, Archaeology, Cities, and Classic Library. It was a discussion about the qualifications we wanted and the duties we wanted to highlight in the job description. The discussion was revealing because our CIO, who is also head of the library, wants the person to have some ideas about technology, meaning he wants them to be thinking about digital collections and tools to use those collections in research and teaching. The faculty at this meeting immediately jumped to the conclusion that he meant someone who knew their way around a computer and/or a course management system--a mechanic. I did not defend myself, but simply made my anthropological note for later.

That meeting was followed by a meeting with our college counsel to discuss the handling of our DMCA policy. I am the college's DMCA agent. Our policy is not clearly stated and even those of us who administer the policy are not always clear on what to do. We hammered out what we were required to do and went on to discuss satellite radio and how cool it was.

Then, I finally had some time to myself. I spent it writing up a Blackboard (our course management system) FAQ that I've been working on and that will be shared--via Blackboard--with the two other colleges in our consortium.

Lunch, followed by the meeting of our Curriculum Support group where we talk about things we're working on that are related to the college curriculum. Here is where we actually discuss pedagogy and technology. We spent the meeting discussing key points from the Educause conference--which I had to miss because Mr. GM was off at two other conferences. We also spent some time talking about results from a recent survey about technology literacy.

After that, I spent time talking to a colleague about our upcoming workshop on digitizing audio--from lp to cd.

Then I digitized some video, editing its sound and trimming it and exporting it into two different formats.

In between all of this stuff, I answer numerous e-mails and phone calls, usually about trivial matters.

A lot of hats. And this is a typical day--a good balance for the most part between the mechanical part of my job--using the technology and helping others use the technology and the Thinker part of my job--deciding how best to use that technology or discussing the broader issues surrounding technology and education. And that's what I like about my job--I get to do both. What I don't like about my job is when people think I don't think, that I have no idea what it's like to be in front of a classroom, that I'm a mechanic. Even the mechanic part of my job requires a lot of thought. There's a lot of problem solving involved in using technology effectively.

I guess I've had one of those days that I felt went really well but that I wish more people understood, especially the people I work with. I am more than just the person who knows the exact path of your web directory and who can help you add a discussion to your Blackboard course. I can help you think about why you'd need a web directory in the first place and how to structure your online discussion to effectively enhance what you're doing in the classroom. I have a brain and I'm not afraid to use it.