Monday, September 13, 2010

Oh Guilt-Inducing Digital Information Age . . .

Some people, the normal ones, get excited by all of the cool things that technology offers, all of the amazing, positive, thoughtful ways people have utilized the affordances of the Internet, of mobile phones, of ebooks for the sincere goal of democratic education.

I, on the other hand, feel guilty.

I don't feel guilty because I am a white, privileged American girl who grew up in the kind of middle class home where my first car was bought for me. I don't feel guilty because I don't always stop completely at four way stops, and I sometimes speed up, rather than slow down, at yellow lights. I don't even feel guilty that I gave my two year old her pacifier in the car on the way to daycare this morning, even though I promised my husband we'd only use them when sleeping from now on. Nope.

I feel guilty in the same way I've always felt guilty when standing in bookcase-lined libraries. I feel guilty because, in the grand scheme of things, I've read NOTHING. I know NOTHING. I've retained NOTHING. And even though, I've got a few years ahead of me to live, I realize with great clarity that I will never make it through all of the books in that library, even if I developed a strategic system to do so.

You can imagine the problem, then, that Internet presents for me. Not only are there blogs to read and comment on, websites to visit and peruse, shops to purchase from, an entire virtual world called Second Life . . . but there are also, you guessed it . . . E-BOOKS! It's a virtual monster monster library, one that in a million years I could never conquer.

So here's the question: How do you behave when confronted with an impossible task, even if it's an impossible task that you deeply WANT to take on? Here's how I behave. I shut down.

So as I click from cool e-book-related website to website, my heart slowly sinks deeper in my chest, as I realize "I should have used this when I taught middle school! My ninth grade fifth hour class would have LOVED this. This would have been GREAT in my presentation last conference. If I had KNOWN this existed."

And if I'm going to be really honest, I'd also note that a portion of my guilt stems from the realization that I haven't been a creator of ANY of this cool stuff. That, while I slept last night, thousands of innovative people were hard at work crafting things I never would have dreamed of! And I'm unsure if this has to do with my inherent laziness or just my general inferiority.

So there I go, turning a cool week of readings and websites into a psychotherapy section all about me. Somehow I've got to move out of this "there's so much to do and see and read" paralysis. Somehow I've got to figure out an efficient way to catalogue, remember, store, and use the cool things I find, rather than just getting excited for two seconds and then immediately forgetting it. And somehow I've got to jump in on the game and become a producer myself.

I wonder if any of my students have felt this overwhelmed way about the Internet. . . I wonder how I can enable them to surf (rather than be drowned by) the digital wave . . .


  1. Ooh good point. Maybe this is where the relevance of good teachers comes in, when students feel totally paralyzed by the giant mounds of awesome information that's out there and where to start? Do they even think about that? Shouldn't they? It's lucky for some kids that there's been somebody like you even thinking about these issues leading a classroom, and doubly-lucky that undergrads have you to poke little ideas about technology and info into their brains before they go off to schools themselves. But organizing all that's out there, yikes! Where to start? Could this blog be a little tool? Gathering up all those little resources and organizing them in one place, constantly adding? Is there some other fabulous techy thing that I'd never heard of that does it? I'm not an IST person...haven't they figured it out for me yet? Let me know what you find that works... ;)

  2. Gosh! You're right that blogs are GREAT places to dump cool links, videos, articles, other blogs that you find. But there goes my guilt again: I rarely use blogs this way! I have too much fun writing, writing my own reflections that I forget to use the most important affordance OF a blog . . the ability to link to cool stuff!

  3. So it's an idea...but I'm a big believer in the organizational system "clicking" for the user before it does any good. If guilt is the predominant reaction, it doesn't sound like the best fit... but who knows? :) Maybe you'll just write a book...or keep a journal...or use certain applications you really like over and over so eventually you'll just pass them on naturally... decisions, decisions!