It’s Friday, so today’s post (day 5 in the blog every weekday for a month challenge) will be a review of what I think I learned this week. At least, these are the things that have stuck with me, or a subset of it.

  1. It really is possible to put up a blog post every day for a week. I took this “blog every weekday for a month” (BEWFAM?) challenge because I was sad that I often go 3, 4, or 5 weeks or longer between posts sometimes. Why do I do that? I began to wonder. I write in a journal every day, so why can’t I post on the blog every day? This week as I’ve done this, the trick it seems is to write here as I would in my journal: Latch onto something that happens to come to mind, then do a writing sprint about it and don’t worry so much about editing or polishing or whatever. So far so good. It will be harder next week.
  2. My current pace of professional activity is too high. Starting next week is a two-week period during which I will be giving two keynote addresses at conferences, two faculty workshops, a webinar, a smaller talk (to the Missouri NExT people), and a sit-down with the faculty in a math department to talk about teaching and technology. Two weeks. And, it’s in four different locations, one of which is not in this country. I was good this time and started putting all this stuff together a month ago, and even with that headstart I am still very much under the gun to get everything else done. It’s too much. I chose to do it all, but I now know what “too much” looks and feels like.
  3. Sometimes putting boundaries and restrictions on things creates energy. I’m thinking of meetings here. As if I didn’t have enough going on already I am the chair of two committees this year. One of those met for the first time this week and I made out not only an agenda for it but also a schedule with 10-minute time slots to discuss each item. One of the committee members remarked he’d never seen anyone break down the agenda in this way. I replied that if I didn’t restrict myself time-wise, I’d go over; but if I do restrict myself, I often end up finishing early. The more I thought about that the more I think this is true generally. Place boundaries around what you’re doing and it tends to focus you, to light a fire under you.
  4. I’m very interested in seeing where tablet and cloud-based computing goes in the next 3–5 years. Our department bought some Chromebooks over the summer to use to loan out to students who don’t have laptops during class. In August I took one of them home to configure it and get to know the OS, and my family and I ended up loving it. Yesterday, as my “vintage” 2011 Macbook Pro took 5 full minutes to open up Keynote, I got to thinking – how much of my work can I actually get done just using a Chromebook? The answer right now is, not all of it; I still need Camtasia for example which has no obvious cloud-based analogue. But the answer is a lot closer to 100% than it used to be: StackEdit for text and markdown editing; SageMath Cloud for computation and LaTeX work; Google Docs for basic office stuff; and most of my productivity apps like ToDoist run in a browser. In a few more years the gap might be completely closed. I’d certainly like to get a new $500 Chromebook every year rather than get a new $2000 Macbook every four years just in terms of staying current.
  5. West Michigan is beautiful in the fall. I didn’t exactly “learn” this because I’ve lived here for four years, but you get reintroduced to this fact pretty much every year in the last week of September. I need to enjoy it, because I’ll probably be shoveling snow in three weeks’ time.

So, what did you learn this week?