your future (career) on digital humanities

Steve Krause has a good post on the challenges of integrating technology and discusses this humorous video from the University of Denver.

So I want to play off some this material. Krause suggests "If teachers aren’t willing or aren’t able to really rethink the way that technologies can transform their teaching, then they shouldn’t bother with the expense and hassle of things like “smart” boards. And if teachers want it all to be so “easy” that they don’t have to think about it all, well, that’s kinda dumb." And I get what he's saying here and want to go a little further. Fundamentally, the question for me is "how 'transformative' can 'technology' be if, at the end of the day, the classroom (and interactions within the classroom) still look fundamentally the same?" As we see in the video and often hear, the primary effect of mobile technology is distraction. That is, the only difference in interactions is one that does not lead back toward the collective goals of the course (e.g. surfing facebook, texting, etc.). 

You want to see technology transforming courses? I'll make it easy for you. Change the other rules of the pedagogy game. No more 15-week, 3 day a week 50 minute classes or 2 day a week 75 minute classes. Cut meeting times in half… or double meeting times. I don't care which. Have faculty teach 5-week courses with 60 students followed by 10-week seminars with 10 students. Have courses run for 30 weeks but meet once every five weeks. 

Down the road the specifics may matter. We will likely find good combinations of technology practice and face-to-face learning. The point here is that if technology is going to have a significant impact on education it will ultimately be because it has had a formative impact on the goals of education. I know that even the techno-pundits like to say that technology shouldn't drive education, and all the lemmings in the audience nod their heads sagely. Sure, we shouldn't let technology drive education: that's why we have goals like teaching students to write papers and read books, right? …. Think about it. Those are technologies, right? Digital media should be no more (and no less) deterministic of education than print technologies have been. Keep in mind that I am in a discipline whose entire history is founded on the study of print technology practices. All we do is heavily shaped by technology. But I am skeptical that we have the disciplinary fortitude or desire to change our goals, even if we were able to realize that our discipline is a function of print technology (which is a realization I'm not sure we can bear to confront).  So we need a back door into this project.

If we completely scramble the spatio-temporal shape of curriculum, I am betting that many of us will turn toward technology to fill in what we perceive as missing pieces. In that context, I am confident that we would discover that the insertion of those technologies would have a mediating/mutating effect. But right now we don't get that. Right now, we continually see commentary that is susceptible to the same problems of bias I often see in first-year writing. E.g., students who bring laptops into the classroom get distracted; therefore they shouldn't bring them. Couldn't this be a problem with the classroom rather than the student or laptop? And by that I don't necessarily mean the professor. I mean the room itself and/or the way we are asked to occupy it.

In some abstract sense it is probably not 100% necessary to change the traditional class meeting schedule in order to integrate digital media. But I think it is an easier way to make the transition. Obviously asynch courses with zero meeting time reflect what I am suggesting, as do hybrid/blended courses. Personally I think we may need to go further than that. We may need to go beyond the idea of a class with a professor and a group of students that starts and ends at assigned times. 

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