A couple of months ago, I was sitting in a meeting where the quality of the image being projected was awful. We were supposed to be able to read a document---and even though it was in focus, the contrast was terrible. After I realized that everyone else was just going to accept things as they were, I waited for a break in the action and went up and adjusted the projector. Voila! Now we could actually read what we were provided.
The reaction from other participants was...interesting. Grateful as they were, it had never occurred to any of them that they could make things better themselves. I must, by default, possess some mystical knowledge of LCD projectors---I had a magic touch. The truth is much simpler than that: I'm just not afraid to push a few buttons. The image already sucked---what was the worst that could happen by pushing the "menu" button and navigating via the arrow keys? The machine wasn't going to blow up. No people or animals would be harmed.
Is it really so terrifying to play? Is it so much to ask that when faced with a situation or decision, that we stop for a moment and ask ourselves "Is there a better way of handling this?"
I have come back to this theme in my mind a couple of times since the Great LCD Projector Event of 2009. I was sitting in (yet) another meeting a few weeks ago where several players needed to coordinate a calendar of events. Their solution? Develop a calendar in Excel that they could e-mail to one another and update. Okay, so that is one way to accomplish the goal. I happen to think it's a rather poor one. How do you know who has the most updated version? Who "owns" the document and communicates changes? What do you do when more than one participant needs to work on the document? We weren't going to put any secure information on the calendar---merely due dates for the different people and elements involved. Wouldn't it be better to use something like a Google Calendar that everyone could have access to at once and update/edit/view?
I watched several teachers struggle over the last two weeks with what are (to me) some very basic elements of Word and Excel: adding rows, wrapping text, inserting graphics, editing headers, and so forth. We didn't ask the teachers to do anything fancy, mind you, but as I watched some of them labor over trying to do things like add a row to a spreadsheet or table...I realized that my future job will be much more challenging than I first realized.
How do I move teachers into using web-based tools and other technology when their mindset is not based around "There must be a better way."? When they're either not curious or are afraid to just push a button?