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Monday, June 20, 2011

Early adoption

I've always been a semi-early adopter of technology. I'm not a fanatic about it; I'm just sort of fascinated by the internet, by the ability we now have to reach people we never could in the past, and I like playing around with stuff. Back in college, I would 'chat' with friends via the VAX (I think that's what it was called), and in grad school I learned some html so I could create a personal webpage with lots of random stuff on it. I was actually excited when our campus started using Blackboard because it was easier to post my class stuff there than on the webpages I created on my own. And as the number of tech and web-based communication tools has exploded, I've explored a bunch of them, as I've written about here a lot.

But even though I think technology is a wonderful thing, when it comes to teaching, I don't think I use technology just for technology's sake. Rather, I'd say that when I'm faced with a problem, I tend to look to technology as part of the solution. Lisa Lane points out that many faculty are OK with using technology for non-pedagogical problems, like recording grades, and technology is clearly great for simplifying things like distributing course materials. But my interest in using technology for teaching really kicked into high gear when I started teaching the 500-seat class. I certainly can't imagine teaching that class without clickers but once I started using them, I quickly realized the opportunities they create for student engagement so that now, I wouldn't teach a class of any size without them. And that experience has led me to look for other ways that technology can increase interaction both inside and outside the classroom.

Given my own inclinations, I have to admit that I find it a bit odd when I encounter people who seem to be anti-technology. On the one hand, I do understand why some people think Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. are a waste of time (because goodness knows they can be!), and I certainly understand the frustration many teachers have with their students' texting all the time and all the associated issues that we could blame on the 'net gen' connection to technology. But on the other hand, I can't help but think that people who make those kinds of comments are, well, big fuddy-duddies, particularly since these comments often come from people who don't actually know anything about the technologies they are disparaging. To me, it sounds a lot like the latest version of, "Eh, kids these days!" And when I hear those comments from teachers, I can't help but wonder: do they not understand that at least some of these tools have the potential to help them reach students, to increase student interaction and engagement? Or is it that they don't care about reaching students? Or, to put that more nicely: why is that some people perceive the costs of learning about technology to be so much greater than the benefits?

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