Proof and Motivation

I believe in being nice to people and in helping out when I can. I believe it’s the right thing to do, and I also believe that it pays off in the end so it’s stupid not to.

My philosophical debate of the day is this: does the “paying off in the end” bit cheapen or confirm the “right thing to do” bit?  Can it be logical and good at the same time?

Proof, by Kodama on Flickr
Proof, by Kodama on Flickr

This came to mind because twice in the past couple of weeks, one of my advanced students, C, asked for help sending videos of her little daughter out to family in Mexico, and also with getting her hand-me-down laptop to join the library’s wireless network.

To me, these are life skills, most especially when your family lives far away.  Limited access is a problem, and when I had the chance to address it for even one person, I couldn’t not.  So I had her come in during the afternoon lull and spent maybe an hour and a half total helping her out.

Then Wednesday evening, I had an unprecedented number of new students enrolling, including four men who spoke Spanish but little English. C was there because one of those men was her brother – she brought him in. She helped him understand the application and the mechanics of his test, and when he was good to go, C also helped me with the three other Spanish-speaking students.

So on one hand, what goes around comes around, and it’s amazing to be part of a cycle of such positivity.

On the other hand, I have this very concrete proof that going the extra mile for students yields more students and more helpers.  Does this proof suck any “good” there might have been out of my desire to help my students?

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t know where my motivation to serve my students ends and my motivation to serve myself begins.

At least they’re aligned?

Need… tabbed… browsing…

First day on the new job!  It was awesome.  I’m getting all situated, getting to know my new on- and off-site coworkers, and figuring out what all is in my office.

The only thing I have to say that’s not glowing is about the security on my office computer.  I do not have the authority to change my toolbars or to download a new web browser.  Not having a quick-launch toolbar and being without tabbed browsing are already driving me nuts!

Secure, photo on Flickr by Wysz
Secure, photo on Flickr by Wysz

I guess my rhetorical question is why we bother imposing this type of limitation on people’s computers.  How does it benefit anyone to have me on an outdated browser and unable to customize my desktop?  I feel like I’m back at airport security, taking off my shoes and separating my baggie of liquids and gels for closer inspection; I’m going through a security charade that makes no impact on anyone’s actual safety.

I’m hoping I can request a couple of work-arounds – everyone over at the library I’ve met so far has been amazing.

Also, I think the fact that my only complaints are so minor and specific is a great sign for how awesome it’s going to be to work there!

Whine Whine Whine

Really, whining is not what I’m trying to do.  My purpose is to highlight what unequal access means for people through my own, “not exactly roughing it” experiences.

One of my frustrations has been that the internet is self-propagating.  To find networking answers, for example, I found that what I needed was an internet connection.  <ironic sigh>  What I mean to say is, the poor get poorer.  Ancient phenomenon, modern medium.

The other thing is, typical solutions (“Eh, just go to the library”) don’t work.  It’s almost never about just popping onto a computer for an hour to take care of a couple of things.  It’s much broader than that.  To stay current with what’s happening on the internet, you (or at least I) need to be on it.  Yes, part of staying current does include the latest drunk pictures my friends from high school posted on Facebook.  But part of it is reading blogs like Beth Kanter’s (and following the recommended links), or establishing myself in the nonprofit Twitterpack, or just poking around and seeing what I find.  Popping over to the library once a week doesn’t really cut it.

The nature of the beast is that without home internet access, you’re cut off from not only important “putter time,” but also from the best resources about the resource.