If you take the @ train to downtown Paragraph City sometime, duck into the Toffler building and elevator up to the observation deck. If you drop a quarter in one of the View-Masters up there, you won’t be able to see the cutting edge of instructional technology, but you’ll see – in 3D – colleges who can see it.
IT is like that at my college, distanced by cost and a lack of IT people from what’s new, but not entirely out of sight. At a small college where we worry about keeping the tuition attainable for our over-jobbed students, that’s probably appropriate. Still, I often wish the IT jungle were a little more lush here.
Two events bring the instructional tech topic to the fore.
Item one: an occasionally heated discussion of the “don’t push tech on me” – “you’re such a Luddite” variety that University Diaries points out here: http://www.margaretsoltan.com/?p=3740
Item two: the 2008 Horizon Report (http://connect.educause.edu/Library/ELI/2008HorizonReport/45926), which tries to forecast the IT weather coming our way over the next five years. It has seemed to me that most crystal balls are about as predictive as bowling balls, but the Educause & New Media people who publish this report have a pretty good 5 year record built up. I recommend the report.
Both items put instructional technology’s relationship to learning up for view, and there are a host of questions, like these
How does the faculty keep up with the tech du jour? Should we?
Just because we can learn a new dance step, should we? It remains, after all, the same couple dancing: just me and milady composition.
How do we know learning happens better with tech than it did when chalk used to stutter across a blackboard?
Is a higher tech presentation what students want? The follow-up to that is often this: Why give students what they want when what they want is often not that good for them? But I’d rather ask this: Is there any reason to not teach students with the sort of presentation that they would prefer?
Will the tech dumb down the material, for instance by putting it into sound bites or making an engaging discussion unlikely?
Do our students have the companion tech necessary, or are we digging the digital divide ever deeper?
Can we afford to have the necessary tech, and can we afford not to have it?
Both item one and item two above address some of these, and so will I in upcoming morsels. One point more, right now.
PowerPoint is often raised as an example of technology everyone, Luddite or not, is familiar with, and the argument is often made about how dreadful PowerPoint presentations are. But it isn’t the PowerPoint, it’s the lecture. Lectures by incompetent lecturers have always been dreadful, and they continue to be dreadful in PowerPoint. But it’s not the fault of the tool, and if I let the tool change the way I think about how I communicate to my class, it’s possible what results is an improvement.
That “if” however, is not surmountable by all faculty, for better or worse. And there are bigger monkeys in the jungle than that old PowerPoint grouch.