DS106 and Tracdat: Perfect Together

Constant back and forth between detail and strategy is one of the things that make my job challenging. I feel most grateful that I have Curtiss Grymala and Pam Lowery to count on for a lot of the deveIlopment and user training work. This allows me to focus more on strategic planning, trends research, testing, meetings (and meetings and meetings), and even some experimentation during the day. Which isn’t to say that I don’t do my own fair amount of user support (I really love the folks at UMW so it’s not a problem), content management, coding, image editing, and the like. It’s just no longer the main thrust of what I do on a day-to-day basis.

The balance between creating tangible product and advancing intangible ideas is a line I am uncomfortable straddling. Last year, immersed in the implementation of a new website, there was no time to think of such luxuries as strategic planning for the Web. The past year I’ve been getting my sea legs with “well, we’ve got the site, now what?”

Enter Tracdat, our institution’s technology tool for assessment and reporting of each administrative and academic area’s activities throughout the year. The past few days, I’ve immersed myself in the narrative of what we planned and what we did and what we have to do. Gathering documents and screenshots together, I’ve tried to represent an accurate picture of what we hoped to accomplish, and what we have accomplished this past year. It’s an anxiety-producing exercise for me.

When Tracdat was getting me down, I switched over to DS106, and my alter ego. There were the intermittent tweets as my alter ego, and tweets as me. Mid-morning, I attended a Google Hangout in full character costume (wig, sweatband, sunglasses), listening to the brilliant Bryan Alexander actually saw fit to respond to one of my questions (what a privilege), horsing around with students, online educators, and assorted Camp Magic MacGuffin aficionados. Pure chaos of the stealthily productive variety.

Following the 90 minute online discussion, I removed the wig and returned to Tracdat. At about 4 pm, after picking up my daughter at school, I went outside and took a photo for the daily create, uploading it to Flickr. Then, I went back and finished up not only Tracdat, but my IE Report for the year (a summary for the Board of Visitors about what happened this year, and what we recommend for next year).

I submitted my final Tracdat report at the end of the day and received a rating of “Awesome!” from our institutional research person. (To the extent that a coherent report in an institutional assessment tool can be considered an accomplishment, well, that’s an argument for another day. Mastering the mundane realities of employment are not so sexy as nailing that final philosophy paper, but it’ll have to do for now.)

I have to admit that in the past couple of years, I’ve watched DS106 from the sidelines, wondering what the heck Jim Groom in a bald wig had to do with higher education. I began to make a connection yesterday between what it means to be a liberal arts institution and the core mission of enabling students to be able to think, a rare skill in our supposedly skill-obsessed world. DS106 appears to require that I develop a nimbleness needed to bounce among the array of digital and creative possibilities in service to advancing coherent ideas.

That would put Jim Groom in a bald wig right in the crosshairs of our institution’s mission of “providing a superior education that inspires and enables our students to make positive changes in the world.”

What a logo that would be.

2 comments ↓

#1 Alan Levine (@cogdog) on 05.31.12 at 2:41 pm

Who is “Jim Groom”? 😉

You’ve been bringing A+ game to ds106, so put that in your tracdat and ______ it. Seriously, you bring much to this experience, so I hope you can keep switching hats and personalities.

#2 Cathy Finn-Derecki on 05.31.12 at 6:07 pm

Apparently, this “Jim Groom” “made us.” Or so says Jim Groom.