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Having Fun in Learning Tech
February 2, 2010 - 9:42pm

Even my worst days as a learning technologist beat the crap out of my best days in most of the jobs I've had. I've worked food service (Dunkin Donuts), and I've worked retail (ladies clothing - don't ask), and trust me that working in academic technology is a choice gig. Truth be told, I was terrible at any job that required a cash register. If you've ever worked behind coffee counter then you will always, and I mean always, leave money in the tip jar.

Perhaps knowing how hard life is making a buck in the food service and retail world is the reason you will usually catch me on campus with a smile on my face.

If you are lucky enough to get paid to have never left college then you are truly blessed. Educational technology is the best job going in higher ed, as we get to work with computers and software (something we'd do even if nobody was paying us), while trying to use these cool tools to help people learn. We also get to work with really smart people (faculty members, librarians, programmers, media people etc.), most of whom are incredibly grateful for any help, advice, or support that we can provide.

So in the spirit of recognizing our good fortune at being lucky enough to work at the place where education and technology intersect I offer 3 simple rules of the road for learning technologists:

Rule 1 - Be Positive: Recognizing our good fortune should put us all in a positive frame of mind. We can share our positive energy with the faculty that we collaborate with and the librarians we depend upon. We can greet faculty requests with both energy and smiles. We can respond to our colleagues' ideas and plans with support and offers to help. We can jump in where we are needed, knowing full well that our colleagues will do the same for us. We can be generous with our time for anyone who walks through our doors, whether they are an emeritus faculty member or a post-doc teaching her first course. We can do whatever it takes to make the life of an instructor just a little easier, and the learning of a student just a little bit better.

Rule 2 - Be Calm: We don't need to come across as constantly stressed, constantly harried, and constantly over-scheduled. We can, and should, linger over conversations with faculty, students and colleagues. We should spend the time to listen to what they need and what they are doing. We don't need to tell people that we are doing too much without enough resources or people, as I can guarantee that everyone is in that same situation. We can be relaxed. We might be worried about larger financial, resource, or staffing issues - but we should also recognize that we can't control what goes on with endowment or state funding - and therefore should not exude stress about these issues. We can control our level of engagement in our work and our degree of pro-activeness in responsibilities, so our energies should be directed towards those areas that are within our control.

Rule 3 - Be Grateful: Finally, we should recognize how fortunate we are to work in higher education and how lucky we are to work with people who teach us so much. We should remember to say thank you. We should try to listen more than we speak (hard for me - but a goal nonetheless). We should try to the people we work with as they are, not as we want them to be. We should try to own up to our own weaknesses and be willing to share our passions. We should encourage our colleagues to play to their strengths, and try to discourage a system that attempts to correct weaknesses (a goal we should model for teaching and learning). We should be cognizant how fortunate we are to live at a time and in a place that values learning and supports education.

What would your rules of the road look like? Do you also think that you have the best job in higher ed?


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