Affordances of Technology

We put the finishing touches on a group research effort today using Skype to touch base from time to time and collaborative writing in a Google document. It was nice to call and communicate via Skype if we had a question and write together to produce something that took months of preparation in our Qualitative research class. As we finished up, I was thankful for the affordances of the technology that allows me to be home with family yet still close to my classmates. When I refer to affordance what I mean is that the tool allows me to write or do something that I would not be able to do without the tool. These affordances of the emerging technologies also open my eyes to the potential for students to experience more than ever before in school.

There is another side to this experience of writing the paper while at another work site. I had the tendency to multitask and because the affordance of being able to be where I had other demands, it meant that I was not completely focused on the task of writing the paper. People needed me in the “other space” and before I even realized it I was checking an important Google chat that came in, setting up a student for a test, and then returning to my paper. In different forms this pattern continued. The paper received less of my attention than it should have, but then again, everything did. Multi-tasking is a myth. No one does it well. People only dilute the things that they do; something or someone suffers.

So what do we do about this dilemma? I think my answer would be to begin to draw boundaries better and talk about those lines.

Freedom to Engage

As I was in the Happy Valley watching my niece graduate yesterday, I did, in fact, feel happy for her. I thought about how she must be satisfied with the effort she’s put forth and excited for her future. As she sets off for a contracted five year assistantship at U.C.S.D. to work toward her doctorate and conduct cancer research, it’s good to know that her cousins will be able to keep in touch with her through social media. And while social media will connect her personal world, I believe her professional learning community will grow exponentially. Shirley Malcom, the commencement speaker, said she runs into PSU alumnae throughout the world as she travels with work and service. It is likely that my niece will likewise become more Networked on and offline over the next few years.

As a mother, sitting with my three children during the graduation ceremony, I was grateful for the portable technology and wifi. I had given my two youngest children my iPad and they moved quietly between taking pictures and video of the ceremony, to playing Flow, to sharing ear buds and watching Duck Dynasty (oi vay!). With little encouragement, they took pictures when their cousin’s name was called and captured her as she walked across the stage. The technology allowed them to document, share, and be entertained in ways that brought peace not only to them but also to the adults around them. I thought of Turkle’s Alone Together. There were times we were alone together and that was perfectly okay.