On Shoulders and Burdens

Interesting conversation over at Abject Learning in response to a post by
Brian Lamb about, specifically, Technorati woes, and, more generally, faculty frustration with technology. More eloquent folks than I have already weighed in on this, but I feel compelled to add my two cents.

First, how lucky are Brian’s faculty to have someone like him on their side? We all should care as deeply about the successes and frustrations that our faculty encounter as they set sail on the technology seas.

That said, I agree with commenters that a burden we all need to shoulder* (we=folks involved with integrating technology into the world of higher education), is the management of faculty expectations. Yes, “managing expectations” is a tired cliche in many ways, but it is still worth remembering from time to time. This burden becomes a little more difficult to balance when we are depending on systems and tools that are managed outside our own realms.

It is a difficult line to walk: How do we vigorously encourage faculty to engage with new technologies while simultaneously preparing them for the possible, periodic failure of these technologies?

One answer lies in how we respond to these failures. We need to approach these times as our own teachable moments–they are opportunties for educating our faculty on the reality of using technology. And, more importantly perhaps, they are the moments at which we need to talk even more loudly and vigorously about why using these technolgies is still great, even when they are occasionally prone to failure.

At the same time, we probably need to do a better job of preparing faculty on the outset of possible system failures and breakdowns. We need to do this, but I think we all know that many people won’t really learn this lesson until they actually experience a breakdown first-hand.

*Side note: When I went to re-read this post before publishing, I discovered that I had actually written “a shoulder we need to burden.” Sigh. Can you tell that the littlest Burtis thought she would like Momma to get up and play last night during the wee hours?