“The most valuable commodity I know of is information.”
-Gordon Gekko, Wall Street
Last January I spent numerous hours writing blog posts describing technology tools I use for my job. I had found some tools that were especially helpful for managing a university recreation facility, and I wanted to share with others who could use them as well. My plan was to continually add posts as I discovered additional helpful technology tools.
Part of my motivation for attempting to write this series resulted from my frustration with the lack of help and direction that I experienced while trying to find tech tools that I could use. I am not particularly tech-savvy, and I thought that if only someone would show me some nifty tech tools, then I could solve all of my challenges. I complained bitterly that, since I wasn’t an IT person, I had no idea where to begin. My mantra was, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” When I actually stumbled upon a useful tech tool, I felt like one of those blind squirrels who occasionally finds a nut, and I wanted to share my good fortune with everyone whose jobs were similar to mine by writing posts about my find.
It took me only a few months to realize that I was not only a blind squirrel, but I was naïve as well. How could I possibly have thought that the detailed instructions I wrote in my posts would stay current, even for as long as it took to finish writing the post? Google docs spreadsheets changed to “Sheets,” Google Script Apps became “Add-Ons,” and the effort I took to post screen shots along with my instructions was all for naught as that version of Google docs became obsolete.
I’ve reflected on my folly for several months, and I’ve realized that, although it is impractical to do more than write my own review about technology tools, my excuse that “You don’t know what you don’t know” was no longer valid. I was no longer a blind squirrel.
When I first started trying to find technology tools, it is true that I really didn’t know where to look for information. That was my biggest problem. It’s not so much about that one tool that you might find: it’s about knowing where to get the information you want. As Gordon Gekko, says in the movie Wall Street, “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.” And though Gekko is a villain, he’s still right. You don’t need to already know the information, you just need to know how to get it.
I started with Twitter, following links on professional hashtags such as #SATech, #HigherEd, and #SAChat. The posts from those hashtags led me to websites such as Diigo, Edudemic, and Inside Higher Ed. I signed up to receive posts from the Diigo in Education group, and started reading blogs from tech-savvy professionals such as Ed Cabellon, Eric Stoller, George Couros, and many others. I have now developed a large network of websites and social media sites that I use to discover new tech tools. My latest tech source is Richard Byrne’s blog, “Free Technology for Teachers,” which has a plethora of ideas that can be adapted for use in my job.
New tech tools are being developed every day, and now I feel confident that I have a network of resources that will lead me to the tools I need. So instead of bemoaning the fact that “I don’t know what I don’t know,” I can confidently state, “I know how to find information about what I don’t know.” No more excuses. No more blindly stumbling upon nuts here and there. The most valuable tool—information—is there for the taking.