Monday, August 15, 2005

Office Rant

And by office, I mean both my office and Microsoft Office. Before I begin my rant, I'd just like to say that things are looking quite promising for the upcoming year. I'm getting lots of interesting requests for workshops and information on screencasting, podcasting and blogging. Yay! So take this rant as a very minor part of my overall rosy outlook on my work life.

Every once in a while, someone, usually an administrator or someone not entirely familiar with what it is I actually spend most of my time doing, asks me to do a workshop on Office applications--you know, Word, Excel, etc. I almost always decline. First, I remind people that I am no expert in these applications. I use them as much as anyone else in a college environment does and probably less than many people. The kinds of things people ask for include mail merge and using templates, something useful for those running an office, but not necessarily for teachers. Second, I just don't think we should spend too much energy on teaching the basics of these applications when there's so much more to learn. There's a plethora of material on the web to help and the help documentation itself isn't too shabby. It will at least get one started. If the staff want to learn more complex tasks pertinent to their job, there's a separate budget for that to hire outside instructors.

Now, there are Word tasks I can think of that might be appropriate for students and faculty--especially for Word. For all of these, it would take some preparation on my part.

* Using the "Track Changes" and commenting features
* Using Word with Endnote
* How to add citations and footnotes
* Creating longer documents with chapters/sections; using the outlining features

About Excel, I have less to say. Those who need to do serious number crunching are using better tools. I can't really think of other uses that I could teach people.

Frankly, my life is increasingly on the web, including the life that might relate to applications like Word.

I'm not sure why this always gets under my skin, but it does. I think it's because I often perceive the request as a blatant misinterpretation of my job and almost insulting.

Note: I accidentally posted this for 30 seconds on my professional blog. Yikes, yikes! I know many people I work with read this blog, but I wouldn't want a post like this to be presented as "official" opinion. That said, I do often articulate this view almost word for word when this issue comes up, so it's not like I'm hiding something. The treacherous world of blogging!