Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New Things

I just got glasses for the first time. Not surprising...everyone else in my family wears them, but despite having enjoyed remarkably good eyesight for all my life, for the past 6-8 years or so I have noticed a steady deterioration. At first, I could not see things in the distance as clearly as before; everything was getting a little 'haze' around it like I was looking through a very light fog. Then it started to get so that I could not even read documents right in front of me; signing things became a game of 'pin the tail on the donkey' as I stabbed my signature at what I hoped was the correct line.

You might be wondering what this has to do with my tech blog. Hang in there.

So anyway, I finally dropped by LensCrafters to see about getting an eye exam. They did one right away, and there was a strange sense of jubilation in me: I felt like I was getting my youth back or something; that I was going to receive a rejuvenation in something that I used to be very good at, but that has slipped away from me. During the whole eye exam, I was as honest and careful about my responses as possible (no trying to guess what letter was on the chart; if I couldn't make it out, I told them so). After the lengthy exam, the optometrist gave me a pair of 'steampunk' glasses with MY prescription in them and told me to look around.

It was like HEAVEN!

I suddenly could see everything, clear as a bell. The fog was gone, I could see my fingerprints in clear focus, and the whole world looked clean and new. I could not WAIT to get my own pair! I eagerly paid the rather large amount of money for lenses and frames and went home to blab to everyone I knew about how excited I was to get my new glasses.

So after about 3 weeks, I got the phone call that my glasses were ready. I had to wait a day until I could get downtown to pick them up, but as soon as I got there, I popped them on and looked around.

Uh oh.

Something was wrong. My right eye was happy, but my left eye felt like I was cross-eyed or something. Things just would not focus correctly, and my left eye almost felt like it was straining so much it hurt. The optometrist said 'it takes a few days to get used to them...give it the weekend and see." So I wore them home and waited for the magic to happen.

Unfortunately, after about 4 days, it still didn't seem quite right. I was a bit disillusioned. What happened to the promise? What happened to the clear vision I had when I was there? How come my eyes felt WORSE than they did before? How long did it take to get used to these glasses??

I talked about it regularly (maybe too regularly) with anyone who was around, and even got accused of never being satisfied with anything. I sort of took that to heart, and decided to just accept that this is how they are supposed to be. Not ever having worn glasses before, I knew I needed to adjust my expectations, so maybe this is what it's like. Unfortunately, it wasn't at all what I had hoped for, but by now I had invested a ton of money in them, and my eyes had adjusted enough that NOT wearing them was just as uncomfortable, so I was sort of stuck in the middle. So I decided to just stop taking about it and just put up with it.

But that only lasted so long. Pretty soon, I decided that, instead of asking friends for their input, I should go back to LensCrafters, get some education and get my expectations managed better.

When the optometrist checked my prescription card against her database, she let out a gasp. Turns out that someone had misread a '+' sign as a '-' sign, and the left lens was entirely wrong. She apologized profusely, made a brief mention about how it was surprising I could see out of that eye at all, and wondered why I had waited so long to come back in. She told me to come back in a week and she'd have the new lens installed and I could get my glasses again.

A week later, after the call, I went in and put on my NEW new glasses. It was a world of difference! I could see things in the distance clearly and crisply, and could see close items perfectly. However, things in the middle distance were still similar to without the glasses, but the optometrist assured me that this was normal: the glasses were ground to improve long distance vision, but near distance vision should be somewhat unaffected, which was what I was experiencing.

So I wore them home, off on my merry way, and have been enjoying my new, clearer vision ever since. I don't wear them all the time because there are times when I prefer to be without (like when I'm watching TV), but in general, I can really feel the improvement in my life because I can see better and have the right lenses in my glasses. I sort of hate that I have to clean them ALL the time (I can't stand streaks), and I also have to keep track of them. And sometimes I don't like how they make my face look, but I try not to be so vain. I realize now that they are something new that I need to take care of, if I want to gain the benefit of having them. I sure wish they were completely easy to own, but that's the reality of it.

"So" you ask, "what does this have to do with technology?"

Everything. My experience with new glasses is very very similar to teacher's experience with technology. Let me draw the parallels.

  • Have reasonable expectations but don't dig in too much. Be honest and accept that your expectations might not be very mature when you start. Glasses don't give you new eyes; technology doesn't give you a totally rebuilt curriculum. You need to be prepared for things to be different than you expect.
  • Don't be afraid of a few false starts. Even failures are learning experiences, and lead you further successes.
  • You may not recognize success when you see it, because you were expecting something else. Revisit the first bullet.
  • Tech is a tool. One definition of a tool is "a purposeful design that connects a problem with a solution'. Tech is a tool in that way. It doesn't SOLVE anything, but it connects the problem and the solution. My glasses are a tool that connect my deteriorating eyesight with better vision (although not exactly how I expected it to). Technology is a tool that connects the changing world and students' changing motivations with better, more multidimensional learning (although probably not exactly how you expect it to). 
  • If you feel like something isn't working right, don't wait too long before you consult the experts. You might be entirely correct that you are doing something wrong, or you might be doing things just right and that's how it works. But you probably lack the experience to know it. That's why facilitators are there...to help with the benefit of THEIR expertise.
  • There is no 'there' there. Just as I have discovered that new glasses does not equate to totally new vision, infused technology does not mean we've arrived at the perfect learning environment. We've just changed one set of challenges (that were not yielding the most benefits) for a new set (with much greater potential). But we still have to manage it.
Anyway, the similarities seemed so much stronger before I wrote this post, lol. I'll try to be more eloquent in future posts. 

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