Friday, October 28, 2005

Doing my job

Increasingly, I am actually doing what I was hired to do. That might seem odd, but in my field, it's easy to get sucked into doing related, but unproductive work. Let me explain. I'm a techie. As a techie, I know how to do lots of techie things--from html coding to video editing to using an email client. I am not, however, technical support. But that's what many people see me as. And by technical support, I mean the person you call when something breaks. We have a fairly large staff to handle that and yet, I still frequently get the "my email won't work and I know you're not the person to call, but . . ." Let's face facts, I'm a pretty nice person and I like helping people. But helping people with these trivial things wasn't doing me or them any favors. It took me away from working on projects, developing something, reading or writing something. And it allowed them to not learn how to use some very basic software. So I started saying, "I don't know. Look it up." That's what I do with my kids, my students, why not with faculty and staff.

For the most part, this has worked. After all, it was often true that I really didn't know the answer. I don't know all the ins and outs of email clients, browsers, word processors and the like. Some of the help desk people do, because they've seen it all. Yesterday, I did two things that really fall into the realm of what I think is an effective use of my time. First, I went over to help a faculty member with her professional and departmental web site. She had put together a couple of different layouts and we talked about layout, color schemes, appropriate content, etc. In other words, higher level kinds of issues related to web design, exactly the kind of issues I'm equipped to deal with. It was a really productive session that didn't involve a lot of "go to 'File', 'Save', click here" stuff. Second, I got email from a department chair wanting some information sessions for their department. Again, she focused on higher level issues. She wanted to cover possibilities of using technology and appropriateness in different situations rather than covering how a specific application worked. Again, exactly within my realm of what I should be doing.

Even though I often hold workshops that do cover specific applications, I don't enjoy them and they don't seem effective. Everyone is at a different level and there's never enough time to cover everything everyone needs. People leave a little dissatisfied and tend to forget everything you taught them. I would much rather introduce them to a concept or idea and then if they decide to use it, I come to them to help. This is what I did with tablet pcs and screencasting and it worked. We're doing a session on podcasting today. I'm much better at being a consultant than a trainer. And really, that's what I should be doing and I'm thrilled that people are taking advantage of those skills. I hope to do more and put myself out there more. For example, once I have more time (after teaching this semester!), I plan to stop by people's offices and ask if there's anything I can do for them. I'm working on a regional conference that I hope people will participate in. And I'm working on a few other things that I think will be beneficial to the community. It's hard work, but it's much more fun and rewarding than helping someone with email.