I wasn't always that way, but as I've gotten older, I've seen so many ways that technology has helped me work more productively.
I think my love of technology really started in 2008. I had been teaching fifth grade for three years while my husband was in law school, and he accepted a one-year federal clerkship in Montgomery, AL. We decided to leave Atlanta for a year to move to Montgomery, and I decided to spend the year finishing my master's degree from Michigan State through online classes and by Skyping in to live classes. I spent most of my time at my computer working on coursework, and since we didn't know many people in Alabama, I relied on technology to stay connected to teaching and other educators. It was during this year that I started participating in #edchat and other chats on Twitter, and I started reading and following a lot of teaching blogs. I connected with many other tech-savvy educators, and I saw a lot of potential for teacher learning through online collaboration since I was experiencing that myself.
For a long time, I was a lurker in these online conversations and blogs. But over time, as I became more comfortable with the tools and had more confidence in myself, I began to participate. I started my own blog and networked with many other teachers more formally. We've had several meet-ups, and these teacher bloggers have been some of the most inspiring and motivating teachers I've encountered. I find that I learn much, much more through them than I typically do through my school-sponsored professional learning opportunities. It's because of these experiences that I want to study teacher bloggers for my dissertation research. I want to explore how their online experiences impact their classroom experiences and their feelings of self-efficacy. I also want to see if there's a difference in the self-efficacy beliefs of bloggers vs. lurkers -- those who read the blogs, but don't comment or write anything of their own. My experiences of being isolated for a year in Alabama and transitioning from a lurker to a blogger really changed my understanding of technology's potential, and it's a focal point of my research interests.
As I was going through this week's class readings, I was struck by a couple of issues. First, I do think there is a point where we experience "information overload," and that point can change from day to day or topic to topic. I love using sites like Twitter, but I feel like I can only take them in small doses because there is so much available. And while I can focus my attention on the thought leaders around a particular topic, I'm not sure that will help me build relationships for future collaboration opportunities. I have to widen the net to find others who share my interests but who might not be at the forefront of the field yet. That's a tough issue to balance, and I'm not sure that I've figured that out yet.
The second thing that struck me were the ethical issues raised by online collaboration and document sharing. My whole life is in the cloud now. Between my Dropbox, Google Drive, and Evernote accounts, I'm completely beholden to having my work saved in those spaces so that I can move seamlessly between devices. The cloud poses some definite downsides. Last year, for example, Dropbox had a security breach, and they reset all of my file sharing links without telling me they were doing that -- not fun for my collaborators! But overall, the cloud makes me much more efficient and productive on-the-go. It seems like qualitative researchers will need to accept that as a reality of modern research practices and develop some guidelines for ethics that embrace that fact. I like that I'm entering the field at a time when there's still a lot of dialogue about that.
I'm a long-time Evernote user, but I do have a question for Dr. Britt: is it better to organize by tags or by notebooks?
I've heard conflicting perspectives on this. One hardcore Evernote user that I know insists that it's a waste of time to create notebooks because you can locate everything you need through good use of tags. Others say you should segment out different topics through notebooks but still tag individual notes. None of the people I've discussed this with have been researchers, however, so I'd like to hear another perspective.
Wow! My thoughts this week really meandered. Thanks for sticking with me through this -- lots to process.