29 August 2007

Many approaches to Technology

Today at lunch, a small group of faculty and I got together to think about how to encourage a greater embrace of technology on campus. A lot of ideas were thrown out in terms of who to direct our efforts towards, what are their needs, how will we best reach them, where, when, how.

One of the themes of our talk was that there are different levels of need when it comes to talking about technology, especially in relationship to faculty. Is it that we want to teach people who are uninformed or intimidated to play, to try, to experiment? Or are we trying to befriend the resisters, those that disengage with technology for a variety of reasons? Or is it that we want to engage faculty in a discussion of what technologies are capable of in their classrooms? Or do we want to give people a forum where they can relay and discuss their experiences, qualms, or concerns about technology?

Or all of the above?

Of course I want to do all of those things. But perhaps the need for discussion is the catalyst to acheiving the other goals. A few nights ago, a faculty member shared with me that he doesn't use technology in his classroom because he thinks it will detract from his message and emphasize his "coolness" rather than his content. He has a point. And I think a discussion of what you are trying to honestly acheive with a technology is essential in trying to discern its usefulness in your classroom and in your life. There are many of us who play with technology because we are interested in it, curious about it, amazed by it, excited by it. And we can often dominate the conversation. One amazing technologist I know responds to that kind of comment that just as she is taking responsibility for her learning, so must the less enthused.

In some ways I agree. I think personal responsibility is often lacking when it comes to technology. As I've said before in this blog, if you just take the time to play with it, to try it...

But then again...what is our point in starting some sort of forum? Is it to learn ourselves? Or is it to welcome and teach? I often have a very hard time not monopolizing teaching moments so I can learn as much as I can from them. But might I be doing a disservice to those I am trying to teach by doing that? I want my enthusiasm to propel someone towards technology but I wonder if sometimes I drive them from it by going too fast or taking their learning experience for myself rather than focusing it on their experience.

I'm not sure what I want from a technology forum except that I do indeed want one. But in thinking about it, I wonder if we could succeed in creating a welcoming environment by trying to be everything to everyone. There are so many ways to approach discussions of technology and I wonder what best fits our needs, now?

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