Confession: I manage my volunteer mailing list on a Word document.
It’s true. Even though I enjoy Excel formulas and mail merges, have harsh words for presenters who don’t know the ins and outs of PowerPoint, have actually built more than one relational database, and love to find the optimal information tool for a given task. I am that person, and I copy and paste my mailing list from a Word document.
It didn’t used to be this way. In my old job at the main office, my Outlook contacts list was a well-organized-frequently-mail-merged thing of beauty. But when I got to my new job at the learning center a little over a year ago, I only had Outlook Webmail. Managing contacts solely with webmail is pretty much impossible. Word was there, I used it, and it worked. Months later, my nonprofit helped me install real, actual Outlook Anywhere on the learning center’s laptop (I’m unable to install anything on the main computer, which is library property). And months after that, I have yet to rework my emailing system.
Three thoughts on this:
- My Word document of contacts actually meets about 80% of my current needs quite efficiently. Can I justify spending time reworking it?
- Just because you’re not optimally using a given technology tool doesn’t mean you’re a moron.
- It’s extremely difficult and time-consuming to work around the technology constraints we so often face on the job (and what do they really accomplish, anyway?). I understand why many people just throw their hands up and move on.
And now to the teaspoon:
This type of situation leads me to think broadly about the fact that people need more than initial training and ongoing Q and A to work effectively with digital technology; we need support in the form of quality tools. Even the people who “get” digital technology are severely hampered by slow, outdated, and/or limiting applications and hardware. When we have to figure out how to make our antiquated or locked-down equipment be good enough “in our spare time,” it either just doesn’t happen or it happens at the expense of the rest of our jobs.
I wish that the demands put on educators, especially in this age of obsession with computer-based and distance learning, could be accompanied by thoughts like, “Do they have the tools to accomplish this well?” or even better, “We should ask them what tools they need to facilitate these desired outcomes and then follow through.”
If all I have is a teaspoon and you’re surprised I’m not hammering nails with it, there’s a problem and it’s not with me.