Learning to work

My position at BC is such that I get assigned to a host of disparate projects. In the last year I have worked on everything from helping faculty members work with course management software to bug testing an in-house application to assisting with a tablet computing pilot project. I highly value the diversity of my work and continue to find that it stretches me in ways that I don’t expect and couldn’t anticipate. The title of this post is intended as a sort of pun – I don’t find it difficult to work at my job, but I do find that my position requires quite a bit of self-motivated learning to complete some of the projects to which I am assigned.

At this point in my (admittedly fledgling) educational technology career, the amount of what I do not know vastly outweighs that which I do know and sometimes threatens to overwhelm me. While working with a chemist and a biologist on digital versions of their textbooks, I learned (and am learning) more about 3D modeling than I ever thought possible, as well as investigating an amazing array of chemical and protein analysis software programs that I never would have run into otherwise. I have become a minor expert on 3D encoding schema, and even flirted with the idea of writing my own conversion script before I realized that I didn’t understand half of the markup used in at least one of the particular schema. All of the technological skills I possess (and some that I do not) have been called upon in this project, forcing me out of my comfort zone and compelling me to acquire new competencies.

I find this kind of dynamism exciting. To be fair, I still feel slightly overwhelmed at times, especially right after a faculty member asks me a tricky question to which I do not know the answer. But nothing beats the sensation of finally figuring out the solution after hours, days, or weeks of research and testing. I even enjoy putting together the (inevitable) workflows and user guides that make my work intelligible to those with whom I’m not working directly.

The most important part of all of this, I think, is cultivating a learner’s attitude. If I can stay curious, stay engaged, and stay nimble, my job is a joy. If I ever begin to resent the fact that I have to keep learning to be good at my job, it will probably be time for me to find another occupation. But that’s the best part of this line of work for me: I love learning about all sorts of different things in all kinds of disciplines, in addition to learning new technologies. In short, I feel that educational technology asks me to do many of the things that I would already do myself. If that isn’t one of the best possible combinations for career satisfaction, I don’t know what is.

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