Thursday, January 05, 2006

Holiday Gifts and Letters

After returning from New Zealand, I became consumed with Holiday preparations. I received one of my favorite Christmas present in years: an iRobot Roomba... yes, a robot that vacuums my floors. This is an example of a technology that can have a positive impact on our lives! It is interesting to observe it exploring the nooks and crannies in my house, getting stuck under the Christmas tree, going places it isn't supposed to go... just like a toddler. I even catch myself talking to it like a child. We haven't given it a name... yet! Interesting how a single purpose intelligent device can take on human characteristics, and quickly become part of our lives. My floors have never been so clean. It even gets under tables, buffets, navigates around chairs. Way cool! What does this have to do with ePortfolios? I guess this device is an example of an empowering environment, giving me more time to do the things I really enjoy doing. It also motivated me to reorganize my environment, accomplishing more in a few days than in the last few months. The motivational aspects of technology are well known, and this is another example, even if the outcome is a more organized and pleasant physical environment.

The Holidays also brought the usual Christmas cards, many with the annual Christmas letter, giving updates on the events of the year. It occurred to me, as I was reading these letters to my legallly-blind mother, that these were her generation's family stories... that annual missive that documents the important experiences of family life. Some letters were a litany of events or accomplishments of family members, others included amusing anecdotes that made them more interesting to read. As I reflect on these annual Christmas letters, I realize how much technology (and blogs) could change this experience. Perhaps there are some more technologically-savvy, who send a URL in their Christmas cards. In our card, my husband just printed out a collage of key photos from the last year... I haven't written a Christmas letter since our children left home.

In terms of digital family stories, these annual Holiday letters provide a personal history that, when collected over a lifetime, can provide rough biographical details of a family's life. But I wonder how many families save their letters. This collection process is a challenge for many families, most often a paper filing system with physical storage problems. One solution would be a digital preservation process that I intend to research over the next six months.