Thursday, September 26, 2013

Warming Up to Cool Tech

The last few weeks have been a little weird for me in terms of identity. Is that what school is supposed to do for you?

On the one hand, in my little homeschool I am teaching U.S. History and American Literature. I've coordinated the literature selections to coincide with the history timeline as much as possible and so we are studying frontier life and reading Willa Cather's, My Antonia. We also just finished watching the 2001 public television production of "Frontier House."

If you've been reading my blog for any time now, you'll know that I have long been a proponent of simple living. There have been periods in my life when I wondered if I was born in the right time. Thankfully, I've studied enough history to know that while there are some parts of our past that truly do romance me, those really are just parts of the past. Modern medicine and dentistry are enough to keep me thankful for the here and now. Still, it wasn't that long ago that watching something like "Frontier House"would have left me a little wistful and pondering and itching to maybe give up a few trappings of our modern life.

On the other hand, I am not only teacher this year, but student as well in a Library Information Technology program. Lest you think studying to be a library professional doesn't sound as though it lives on the cutting edge of our high-tech world, I give you Exhibit A:

The Hunt Library at NC State

For a long time I have been kind of a minimalist when it comes to tech and gadgetry. But no more. No, I'm not rushing out to buy the latest iPhone; I simply can't afford the contract. But here's the deal: even if I don't want to use all the latest tech toys, plenty of people do and libraries are often the place where a lot of people learn how to use them. And of course, it's not just gadgets. Its aggregate feeds, organizing via personal information systems, and multiple levels of communication and networking. It's been a little daunting. The internet is a tidal wave of information. Librarians and other library support staff play a role in facilitating the acquisition of credible information as well as education and understanding of how to organize and use it.

I'm only at the very beginning of my program; there is a great deal more to learn and having been home for the years that I have has simply meant that I haven't needed to pay as much attention to some of the things that others may use every day.

But that's okay. I'm enjoying what I'm finding and incorporating into my life. It's kind of odd really. I mean, it was only 8 weeks ago that I wrote THIS post where I waxed poetic about my new paper planner. My planner that, sad to say, has now taken a back seat to my Google calendar (even though I still think it's pretty!). It really does have a great deal to do with communication. Now I do my lesson plans online and share them with my girls. They don't need to write down assignments, as they just check their own calendars on their iPods. I don't need to write out a weekly e-mail to the family that collaborates once-a-week with us on history and lit. Since they both have Google accounts too, I just "invite" them to my "event" and they can see all the details of our class on their calendars too. I've given Maia the task of putting in her work schedule on her calendar. It shows up on mine, so I don't have to ask her for her new work schedule every other week and I can figure out needed transportation.

The one thing I REALLY like is the task list on Google. I know this is ancient news to so many of you, but I really do love not having to hunt for a scrap of paper. And speaking of notes...

Have you discovered Springpad?

I've only recently started using it, but I am enjoying it so far. It has some Pintrest qualities to it, but I don't really use it like that. It's a collection of "notebooks" that you can label and then fill with notes and checklists, but also all kinds of other things that are "clipped" - really just like pinning - into your notebook to have at your fingertips whenever you like. The notebooks are really like a great big filing system that helps you organize all your online favorites in a visual way. I've got the app on my Kindle Fire, so it's handy for my shopping lists. Also, I can share my notebooks with people too, so I'm sharing my shopping lists with my daughters, so that when we're at the grocery store, we can "divide and conquer" - me with my Kindle and the girls with their iPods.

I've got a notebook for my school stuff - links regarding library science: blogs, journals, associations - and a notebook with job information for when the time comes.

It's taken a bit of time and adjusting using my new tools, but I do believe they'll be saving me time in the long run. And speaking of time, I've got some homework that needs doing, so I've got to run. Say hi if you have a minute. Do you use Springpad? What are your favorite tech tools for keeping organized?

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