I’ve been thinking about workflows this week. I recently ran a workshop for academic staff on using mobile technologies in teaching. Probably worth me saying that I didn’t run this alone – I am in no way a specialist with any kind of tech, but I am interested in how anything and everything relates to teaching and learning – I was working with a learning technologist. Anyway, in prepping for this session, I came across several different examples of people’s workflows in relation to the various kit in their lives, and in my typical ‘coming late to the table’ approach, I started to reflect on my own workflow practices.
I have an iPhone, iPad, laptop and work based desktop PC, so I’m seriously kitted out (I also have a kindle but I managed to break that last week, and just to show my workflow isn’t very effective, I haven’t yet sorted out arranging a replacement! Although I do have cover for it – so you can see I do some planning ahead, since I am famous for dropping things!!). Some of the kit is pretty new, and I’m still playing around with ‘software’, so I am really in the process of developing new workflow practices.
If I’m honest, I am often in search of better processes. Somewhere out there is the perfect time management tool for me, when I find it, life will be so much easier ; ) As an aside I am currently using an app called DailyWorkLog for work stuff and the iPad inbuilt reminders tool for home stuff, plus the inbuilt diary for an overview (yep, I can hear you groaning, it’s messy, but you should see my real world desk?!). I could go on about time management tools for ages, but I won’t because this entry is supposed to be about workflow reflections.
However, in some ways this digression to time management tools is relevant because it highlights one of the problems with thinking effectively about workflow – getting lost in the detail. How I manage the time, isn’t actually how I do the work. I’ve been talking with a colleague who is coming to grips with both beginning study for her phd and her relatively new iPad, and it’s amazing how much time we spent considering which storage tool would be best (Evernote, Dropbox, etc etc). This ‘time spent’ is important because the main aim of the discussion was to reduce the amount of time she spent on emailing documents to her supervisors, or even to herself to then upload to Dropbox. She, like me I guess, believes that somewhere out there is the perfect tool for making life easier. (I might come back to the issue of time spent and time wasted and reflection in a different blog entry)
So back to thinking about workflows. When I started my degree (in the early 1990s) I submitted hand-written essays, but by the end of my second year there was a growing expectation that they would be word processed, and by the end of my third year, it was a requirement. So in the process of learning about my subject and about myself, which was huge for me, I was also reinterpreting the notion of writing about what I was learning. It was an interesting journey that I have never really reflected on it that way. I did recognise at the time that writing directly onto a computer radically changed my writing (I didn’t write and then type up, from very early on I wrote straight onto the machine from my notes), and my search processes actually (I got into an index card approach), and liberated me enormously, but this was caught up with the dynamic experience of discovering my intellectual self (that sounds pompous, but it was a real life change) so I never thought it through as being shaped both by studying for a degree AND engaging with new technology.
But I guess we do learn in repeating an experience with our eyes opened a bit, as well as in doing something new, so here I am with a whole new set of technology thinking again about writing, research and learning. Am I going through another intellectual and personal step change? What a truly exciting thought – I hope so ..