My Valentine

February 23, 2010

It’s official – I have fallen madly, deeply and passionately in love. On Valentine’s day I was introduced to  someone social, with an amazing memory, extraordinary networking skills and the ability to be everywhere at once.

My hero is a new computer program: it’s a social bookmarking site called “DELICIOUS” and it really is one of the most incredibly things to consume.

For years, it has driven me crazy to have to constantly transfer favourite websites back and forth between my various computers. This is compounded by teaching and every semester needing to yet again go through and list all my favourite sites that I think students will enjoy. But through http://www.delicious.com I can simply keep all my favourite sites in one neat bundle in cyberspace accessible from anywhere I please.

Even better is that it enables “tagging” of sites – so one can search by topic, interest area or project. So for example, any site I’m interested in is automatically tagged with “shevellar”. Sites relevant to my Masters class are tagged SWSP7123. Other sites are tagged with action teaching or participation or whatever it is that holds my attention.

The only down side is that it seems one has to set up a yahoo account to access the technology, as its hosted by Yahoo – but it’s a small price to pay for true love.

Picture source: movie poster for “The Forbidden Planet”

Goal Displacement

February 9, 2010

I can’t believe I’ve been at this for a month and I’m already addicted. I race home from work to log back on to my computer and check my various sites,  I’m reading and clicking, links take me to other links, and next thing I know I’ve lost the evening. This is not so good. There will be WORDS SPOKEN before too long.

On one level it’s exciting. I’m learning so much. On another it’s very inefficient. There are a lot of built in redundancies. Last night I found myself responding to a friend on both email AND Facebook at the same time which seemed pretty stupid. (Quite frankly I just don’t get Facebook. What is the point? My need to find out which Twilight character I am most like or to provide a star rating against the movie Avatar are both underwhelming).  I ventured into the cyberworld and now I’m connecting to all sorts of long lost friends and acquaintances (I think of it as the 5 minute curiosity window). And I find myself trying to account for my last 20 years in 4 lines or less. The fact that I am able to do so is even more disturbing. It’s all very superficial. We make connections but it would be a mistake to assume they are relationships, except in the most fleeting sense of the word. This is not an original critique. Just one I am living at the moment.

And the professional and personal does start to blur. I find myself slipping and needing to pull back every now and again. But I’m longing to share. I find myself with a need to share great websites and opinion pieces, YouTubes and blog spots. So, after years of relative silence and very functional communication from me, my poor colleagues are being bombarded in a meteor shower of web junk. The good news is that like most of the projects I start it will probably have a short shelf-life (alongside the mad crochet craze, the drumming lessons, or the urge to go jogging).

The challenge for me is to stay focused on the teaching and not allow the technology to take over. The point is to be reflecting upon the opportunity to bring my teaching to life. As role theory reminds me, this is a classic case of role interdependency. Without students it’s difficult to be a teacher!

But while I wait for students to arrive this is an important insight to hold on to. The technology is a vehicle. And we can be pretty overwhelmed by the look of the vehicle: the colour, the engine size, the on-road handling and – in my case – whether it comes with a cup holder. It becomes easy to lose sight of its function, which is to get us from A to B. When it comes to cars, I have enormous affection for my bicycle. And most of the time my hybrid bike gets me from A to B just fine without all the flashy additions. On the other hand…

 Image (and product) from http://www.somafab.com/morningrush.html

My friends in the Vatican

February 7, 2010

This week was ‘smart phone’ week. People who know me will now be on the floor laughing. Given that I’m the woman whose last mobile is still in its original box, has been known to froth at the mouth upon the sound of an overly ‘cute’ ring tone, and once left a lunch because her friend spent too much time texting under the table – this seems like a rather huge leap. But I’m determined to do this technology experiment properly. My IT gurus tell me that there are all sorts of teaching apps that can be run from a mobile. (Apps? See how easily that just slipped in there?) Aside from which if I have to run three diaries any longer I will simply lose the plot. So Smart Phone it is!

It’s taken me a while to find (a) people who sell phones who don’t speak in tongues and (b) people capable of setting up a phone plan for me without making me cry. But I’ve found both (and am happy to give out references privately). So today was learning how to transfer contacts from Outlook to the phone contacts list.

I know there are long term efficiencies, once I ‘master’ the technology, and to help me on my way there are millions of computer-friendly bods who provide all sorts of information – formal and informal – to help. After six different help pages I finally found what I was looking for. For some bizarre reason however in the process of transferring all my contacts over I’ve accidentally, somehow, managed to list all 173 people in my life as living at the Vatican. The agnostics will have a reasonable time and the Catholics should be very happy. It will however come as something of shock to the atheists and pagans who grace my private networks. It may also make skipping Christmas next year a whole lot harder.

So this will be a short post as I go and try and find the necessary codes to get my contacts back out of the holy land. Anyone seen Tom Hanks lately?