Monday, April 4, 2011

Tech envy or tech'd out? 24-hour professor!

Green, emerald, chartreuse, jade, moss, olive...No matter how you say it, I am absolutely green with envy over the technology that was used at a recent conference. I can't stop thinking, wistfully, that I could do so much with the little netbooks or iPads that so many of our presenters had! Many used them to take notes in sessions, to use as speaking notes, or to accomplish work in between panel presentations. My 8.5 pound, older, university-issued laptop simply could not compete with the shiny, slim products. My laptop, though trusty, is also clunky, slow, heavy, and had me feeling an unpleasant Kermit-the-Frog shade by the end of the conference. It seems EVERYONE had a new tech gadget that facilitated their work. But as Kermit says so keenly, "It's not easy being green" and I tried to squash the feelings of frustration.

Fast forward two weeks.

I find myself watching the iPad 2 video promotion, comparing netbooks online, and wondering at my fixation. Really, my laptop is fine. It does the work. I don't *need* anything else.

But, as I take my laptop to meetings to take notes I hear a small, mental sigh over the functionality of the new, smaller, seemingly-more-efficient, technological tools that slide easily into a shoulder bag. Are these latest products really going to enhance my work? Will they facilitate the completion of my daily to-do lists? Would it help me reach my students? Will I improve my educational impact? Will it save me time?

Or is it simply another gadget that will soon be replaced by yet another "new thing" that will find me yet another shade of green? Should we be using a screen and laptop in front of us as we speak (even if it does house our speaking notes)? Should we rely on our digital products so heavily that we must have them small and lightweight to carry them with us at all times? Should we try to distance ourselves from the latest tech toys? Are we tech'd out in academia?

Just because we have the technology doesn't always mean that it simplifies our life or makes us better educators. I am on the fence when it comes to the next gadget. I *really* want it for work. I do a lot of work through digital media and research instructional communication. It makes sense for my digital responsiveness to students. But the biggest phenomenon that I see as a hindrance to educator's flocking to the latest technology happens outside the actual technology. It is the "24-hour professor syndrome."

This is a real issue for our educators today--one many of us don't even see until it absorbs us completely (Picture me waving my hand at the screen and mouthing, "I'm guilty" at this point). We are now answering emails on our smart phones before the work day begins (guilty), we are offering virtual office hours (guilty), we are responding through social media channels (guilty), we are always "on" for our students (guilty). As it is, I'm responding to an IM from a student while trying to eat lunch. This is common for most of us now that our technology can allow us to stay linked to our work every where we go. This is great for students and accessibility. That is why many of us do it--to help the students. However, some professors are noting a near-constant stream of work. As Reeves (2003) noted this can lead to the professor always connected, always available, and increasingly exhausted. As Young (2002) asked, "Is technology turning college teaching into a 24-hour job?"

So, while I sit with slightly less emerald, but none-the-less still green eyes longing for more technological connectedness and opportunities, I also reflect and wonder if the transition to a new technological product will facilitate the increasingly blurry lines between "work" time and "non-work" time.

As I weigh my options and face my tech envy, I want to consider all sides of a new technological purchase. Until then, I'll answer my instant messages while I finish the last of my salad and try to grab my blackberry as the tiny "ding" lets me know that there's more work to do...

Reeves, T. C. (2003). Storm clouds on the digital education horizon. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 15(1), 3-26.
Young, J. R. (2002). The 24-hour professor.
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 48(38), A31-A33.

1 comment:

  1. We all have technology to thank or blame for all these problems or advantages (really depends on your vantage point). One thing's for sure, time seems to have doubled its pace and the consumers have doubled or tripled their demands.