At the start of every year nearly half of Americans resolve to change. Pay off student loans. Quit smoking. Learn HTML code. Lose ten pounds. The devil, however, is in the details. Resolutions are easy to make, the challenge is sustaining them throughout the year. According to a study conducted by the University of Scranton only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals. The year that started with such promise and hope dissolves into wishful thinking and broken promises. With this in mind I’ve composed a list of simple, specific, tangible (and hopefully obtainable) e-learning resolutions.
What the Email? I am an offender of the worst kind. I am a Go To Jail. Go Directly to Jail. Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200 criminal. What is my crime you may ask? I am guilty of unconscious emailing. More than once I have sent one word email responses of ‘Thanks’ or ‘Okay.’ Even worse, I have sent emails with lengthy subject lines to colleagues and students. ‘I received your campaign video but couldn’t open it due to the privacy settings’ being one example. I also need to refrain from sending emails that combine multiple requests and more than one large attachment. No one wants to read a dissertation disguised as an email. Before hitting send, I need to stop and ask – is it necessary for this email to be part of my digital footprint. Am I consciously emailing?
Demystifying “the Cloud.” I have a storage device problem. The problem is not that I fail to properly save documents for posterity. The problem is that over the last fifteen years I have accumulated too many storage devices. I have 10 USB flash drives of varying storage capacities, three Google Doc accounts, hundreds of Outlook archived folders, a Dropbox account, floppy and zip disks circa 2000. Jurassic technology aside, I vow to spend 2015 organizing my files and syncing my mobile devices and laptop in one place – a la the cloud.
Disconnecting to Reconnect. On my first day as an adjunct professor I remember walking into the classroom energized and ready to teach a section of State and Local Politics. Though I did not expect to be greeted by a standing ovation I did anticipate that students would at the very least acknowledge my presence with a passing glance or ‘hello.’ Instead what greeted me were the tops of 22 heads as it appeared that every student was plugged in to their mobile devices, e-readers, laptops, and tablets. Since that first day to now, digital technology has been a curse and a blessing in the classroom. At the same time that I have developed a course website and Facebook page and integrated YouTube, Poll Everywhere, and learning management systems (LMS) into assignments and discussion; I’ve also had to include statements on electronic usage during scheduled class time on my Government in the United States syllabus. Digital consumption is widespread. From the 2 year old tapping away on an iPad, to the teen that averages 3,500 text messages a month to the adult that spends hours trying to understand ‘Deflategate,’ our time spent plugging in means unplugging from work, sleep and academics. And even when we do sleep our devices are normally within arm’s reach. Instead of simply unplugging my digital device I will spend an hour researching “text neck” and other mental and health impacts of excessive digital consumption. In the words of T.S. Elliot, I am “distracted from distraction by distraction.” While I am not walking-into-a-fountain-while-texting-distracted, I am liking-a-Humans-of-New-York-post and why-isn’t-my-phone-receiving-group-texts distracted. I need to digitally detox and revert back to the good ole days of living and working in digital free zones. Starting with an hour and working my way up to a day I plan to turn my devices off and resist the urge to log-in to social media sites. Of my New Year’s resolutions this one will probably be the hardest but disconnecting to reconnect may be the most worthwhile.