In Lieu of Real Content

Yesterday, Megan and I convened our ProVisions session: a lunch gathering of faculty devoted to specific issues of teaching and learning. We wanted to focus, this month, on the questions and concerns about teaching with technology. We were fortunate to have Jenn Marlow present, and she’s put up a digital version of her presentation.

At the discussion afterward, the participants brought up a number of issues that reflect our position as an institution working our way in to e-learning, but also individual faculty members’ deep dedication to face-to-face communication and tactile experience. Underpinning both of these is an question I want to think more about in the coming days: the psychic economies of faculty caught in an inevitable move into a convergence culture. One of the phrases I hear more and more is, simply: “I don’t want to give up what I know and like and value, even if the world is changing under my feet.” Sometimes this is whiny, and sometimes it’s earnest, sometimes it’s said out of the fear of becoming obsolete, sometimes it’s simply obstinate; more often than not, it’s conditioned by a desire to do right by our students—if only we could figure out what that will look like as the digital age moves forward. Will they need more experience with material human interaction or less? More training in navigating and critiquing a digital world or the “real” one? In all cases, there is deep ambivalence toward changing the patterns of what we do in the classroom. It’s not the case that we have to change everything we do—that much we can all agree on. What became clear at ProVisions yesterday was the need to discuss these concerns, framed by a couple of key questions: what do we value and continue to value in education? What new opportunities can technology actually offer us? Is there potential for those same opportunities to foreclose on some of our values? In essence, what are we holding on to for the sake of holding on, and what are we holding on to because they reflect our most deeply-held beliefs in the promise of (liberal arts) education?

There’s more to say and to think about with all of these questions, but for right now, I just want to store some links to a few “quick and dirty” teaching with technology start-up guides, both of which implicitly address the desire to integrate new media into educational settings in ways that hold to the integrity of existing pedagogy (or, in other words, that don’t just use technology for the sake of using it).

The first is a short essay by Bryan Alexander written for the American Library Association. The second is an article on the Educause Teaching and Learning site titled “Think Small!”

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