Saturday, February 7, 2009

Change, Questions and Anxiety

I'm not a great fan of change. Not that anyone who knows me needs to be told that, really, but there it is.

I'm not opposed to change on principal, and I am reasonably adaptable when it comes down to it, but my threshold for seeing change as either necessary or good is somewhat higher than, say, Kim's. We ask different questions. When confronted by the possibility of change, Kim asks, "Is this better in any way than what we have now?" and if the answer is yes, then she does not hesitate. I, on the other hand, ask, "What do I want to do that I can't do with the old that the new will let me do?" This may seem like a similar question, but it is not. Often the new, the change, will not let me do anything that I can't already do, though it will let me do those things more efficiently or more elegantly. Or it will give me options to do all sorts of other supposedly cool things that frankly I have no interest in doing. That is not enough for me, the historian. It is for Kim, the scientist. Go figure.

Yet we remain happily married. Imagine.

Asking different questions is one of the chief causes of getting different answers. One of my standing complaints about the world is that so much of it is designed by engineers, people who do not ask the questions I ask about things. They want to know "what can I get this gizmo to do?" and all I want to know is "how do I get this thing to do what I want?" If you don't think those are different questions, you've never looked at an electronic device with a hundred identical buttons and tried to get it to turn on without consulting the manual.

Not that the manuals help much, really. They are written by people who think like engineers and are thus arranged by feature - this is what THIS does, this is what THAT does, and look at all the things THIS OVER HERE can do too! Cool, huh? Huh? Isn't that cool? Why, this device can replace every other object in your house, including your underwear and your pets! It can do it all!


I want chapters that say "You want to do THIS? Well, first you have to do that, then you gotta do that other, then you click your heels three times, punch in this combination of numbers, turn around and bay at the moon, and slide that switch over to the right, and you're there." And you just know that I'd run right out and buy some ruby slippers if I thought it would make the gizmo in question do what I wanted it to do. You know that.

They're missing a big market, shoemakers. I can't be alone in this.

There's a lot of change going on in my life right now, particularly my employment life. This is most obvious in my new teaching position with On-Line U. OLU has one of the most intensive teacher-training programs I have ever experienced - which in some sense is damning with faint praise, since the sum total of all my prior teacher training through four different campuses and two graduate programs was, and I quote, "Remember, Dave, anything you tell them is news." It is not meant as faint praise, though - at least OLU recognizes that professors need training just like any other profession, and they do a good job of it. I certainly have a lot more respect for them as an institution than I did before I went through the process.

Their training program is all about the on-line part, though - how to work the system, how to set up this or that technical aspect, how to deal with students you will never see. All necessary, of course, but you can tell that those are the questions that they asked.

They don't ask the questions I wanted to ask. I really wanted them to walk me through what an average school week would look like. What happens on Day 1? How do you get from Day 2 to Day 3? I'm well trained in the mechanics, but the flow is a bit of a mystery.

So it's a little anxiety-provoking.

I imagine that once I go through a semester with OLU it will all make sense, and then it won't be change anymore - it will just be work. I can handle work. It conflicts with my drive toward maximum entropy, but what doesn't?

In the meantime, I've got questions.

1 comment:

KimK said...

Change is inevitable - except from a vending machine.