For the past year I have read and heard more criticisms, and felt more resistance, from students and instructors about technology in higher ed than the past 3 years. But not in a bad way. The sort of criticism I am witnessing is based on user experience. It is one thing to criticize what we don’t know because of fear or instinct or, for some, the fact we are natural complainers. Grumbling over MOOCs, for example, from those who never enrolled in a MOOC. I never have – and never will – understand that sort of uninformed criticism.
Yet, it seems to me that after testing, piloting, and trying new approaches faculty (and students) are reflective about the fact that technology doesn’t work in all cases. We are better at articulating what it is we like, and what we don’t. When our faculty and students say they want human contact and face-to-face classes, they are talking from experience. More than once I have been told that to physically touch, see, and hear the arts, humans, and the world, is important.
I just want to point out that this is a HUGE step forward for our little campus.
Even with the criticism (meaningful or otherwise) I continue to find magic. I feel inspired when I hear and read from instructors how technology connects them to their students, their research, and each other. How it expands our capabilities. How we create in ways impossible before. How technology made is easier to “teach” because big questions could be grappled over in face-to-face classes while students could study and prepare online outside of class.
Faculty don’t often recognize that technology has become so pervasive. And sometimes they do! This is what is so different about this year. The ability to sort out when technology is a necessary part of the teaching and learning equation. (Note: In the future, such a statement will be silly. Teaching and learning will use technology and we won’t think of it as some distinctive “new” or “different” thing.)
Of course, there are still many frustrations using technology in teaching. And with more users experimenting, we have more failures. Lost course content, social media privacy permissions set incorrectly, and all kinds of other fits and starts.
But in the end we are learning this is a “normal” part of our digital lives. Faculty are developing the methods, practice and resources needed to learn, relearn and adjust their pedagogy to meet learning objectives.
It’s been a good year, criticism and all.