This semester, in addition to my teaching, I’m helping out at Stonehill with instructional technology, helping other profs learn the new learning management system (the software that runs things like gradebooks and online discussion forums, similar to Blackboard). It’s great work, helping people out with something they really appreciate.
In the process I’ve noticed something. It’s a cliché that people my age and younger – Gen Y and late Gen X – are more comfortable with computer technology than people of older generations, the boomers and early Xers, since we grew up with it and they didn’t. That’s been my experience on the job so far; I’ve been effective at this work because I pick up tech skills more quickly than the other professors, most of whom are older than me.
But I also notice they have something I don’t. When I show them the system’s capabilities, they’re impressed and delighted. They really appreciate how this software can make their teaching careers easier. But me, when I first started learning the software, I first noticed its gaps, the things it can’t do but should. (“You’re kidding! This piece of crap doesn’t have any way to separate out two sections of the same course?”) I’m finding myself a little envious of their gratitude, their ability to appreciate technology. I worry that I’m on a technological hedonic treadmill: I’m surrounded by so much technology that my expectations are higher, and it doesn’t make me any happier to have it.
Ah, the jaded cynicism of youth, and the wide-eyed wonder of the years. David Wedaman, an instructional technology specialist at Brandeis, said a little while ago on Twitter: “Augmented reality is about as amazing as anything I can think of. I think I’m getting old.” If he is, I think he’s lucky.