Monday, June 20, 2005

Instructional Technology Through the Eyes of an IT Staffer

(The link is probably password protected, and available only to Chronicle subscribers.)
This week's Chronicle of Higher Education is chock full of articles on instructional technology and its implications for teaching and learning. "Why Many Faculty Members Aren't Excited About Technology" hits some obvious points, two of which bear restatement in a my own perhaps too blunt style:
  • Teaching, research, and service. They're what faculty are paid to do. I can teach without technology, but I can't get a raise without research. Guess what I'm going to do first. If there's time left over to utilize technology in teaching, them maybe I'll do it. Until then, don't bother me. Solution: Universities should honor their pioneers who teach with technology by providing them with some of the same rewards provided to those who focus on research.
  • "Talk to me in a language I can understand." That's what I'd like to say to some of the techies I've dealt with. Most IT staff are not teachers and so don't have the skills to teach me what I need to know in ways that don't make me feel stupid and inferior. Solution: Get another faculty member to teach me how to teach with technology.

OK, so what have I said? Well, for one thing, let's push the research out to the faculty that demonstrates that students learn more when classes are technologically enhanced. Almost every faculty member I know is concerned that students learn, and the more they learn the better. Second, when faculty commit to teaching with technology, universities must provide ways to free up some time for them to master the technology. Think temporary course load reductions.

Oh, and how about some enthusiasm and old-fashioned salemanship on the part of the people leading the technology charge. I can see the headline in a sales letter now, "The Hidden Secrets to Teaching Success Finally Revealed. Increase Your Teaching Evaluations 50%. Double Your Money-Back Guarantee! Act NOW!"



Blogger Nathaniel the D said...

I think that technology can be a valuable teaching tool, when utilized properly, but I also think that technology is too often used for technology's sake.

We had "clickers" in a science class, for example. The teacher would give us a question, then some time to talk it over, and then we would use the clicker to select an answer-- anonymously. There may have been some potential in it, but it felt too much like a gimmick? to me. I came away from the whole thing grumbling about how my college dollars were being spent.

Computer labs are a great thing. Wireless internet on campus is a good thing (for those with the ability to access it). Clickers might just be a waste of money. We need to be more careful as to what technology we incorporate into our classrooms. Will it really make a difference or will it just give us that "whiz-bang" effect?

2:29 AM  
Blogger Ronald M. Ayers said...

I used the clickers last year. There are some problems with them, but the promotion that's going on in higher ed to use them is intense. Anyway, Nathaniel, you've raised some good points in your excellent comment.

4:27 AM  

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