Monday, August 29, 2011

Role of Technology in Undergrad Education

I was wondering today, just what exactly is the role of technology in undergraduate education today (and probably more specifically in the intro survey courses at a community college).  Just what exactly can it do?  Can it do anything?

I was prompted to think about this a bit because I was considering putting together a round-table discussion on technology for all of my colleagues, and the question that I wanted us to consider was: why is no one using technology?  With all of the social media out there, why is none of that being used in courses?  With all of the web 2.0 and now 3.0 tools, why has none of that been adopted.  And actually, we can get even simpler, why are so few people even using web 1.0 tools?

In reality, all faculty are supposed to use Blackboard--and there is no point in me getting into that here.
Many faculty use that to post a syllabus, create a discussion board and keep track of grades.  Some, more adventurous faculty, will also use it to run group projects or to set up blogs.  Some will also use email features, but is that the extent of our use of technology?  It seems so.  Technology in a box.

There is really no widespread use of web 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 tools/technology at the college.  There might be 1/3 of the full-time faculty who maintain active professional home pages with links to information about their courses.  Then there is the 1/3 of the full-time faculty who can't even manage their email!  There is probably 1/3 of the full-time faculty who have never used the instructor work-stations in the classrooms to access anything on the web.  What about the entire adjunct instructor population?

Most syllabi, if you look closely at them, follow a pattern something like:  read this for class on Thursday, and in class on Thursday we will discuss this topic.  There is little or no technology use anywhere to be found.

  • despite assumptions to the contrary, students are not necessarily tech savvy
  • it takes time for faculty to figure out how to use tech, and there is often little incentive when the school's priorities are enrollment or something else
  • there are no instructional technology people available to help them
  • it is not clear just what critical-thinking skills can be worked on with some technology

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