Guest Writer, Nancy Evans
The 1990s was, among otherthings, the decade of the "change agent" in education. Change was tocome from the ground up, starting in classrooms, and for many, technology wastouted as the change agent of choice. This was back in the time when instructional technologists and "early adopters" were trying to lead the way and the unstated goal in many cases was to change the way students were taught under the guise of using technology. In other words, technology was one way to get rid of the"sage on the stage" and replace her with the "guide on the side." But the technology itself was a big obstacle. It was new and complicated and made for a lot of uncomfortable moments — losing documents, breaking floppy disks, crashing operating systems.
Technology was not yet wellfunded and granting agencies tended to focus on training; that is, training inhow to use the darn thing. All-in-all, the focus was on the technology (and, tosome extent, still is). We needed to know what is new, how do we get it, how dowe use it. Instructors have been particularly frustrated with this approach since it hasn't left much room for the art of teaching or even to ask "Why?"
But today is different. Jose Bowen is on to something new in "Teaching Naked" and it isn't the technology or even the information that is new. It is learning that matters andteaching that facilitates it. If a liberal arts education encourages communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creative problem-solving, expanding one's thinking, and making connections between subjects, then technology opens the world for students to ask questions and discuss with students elsewhere, to experience the lives of others in other places, to pick the brain of an expert,and put it all together with other students in a variety of ways. It's agreat big open library where we are all curious. A bit of the old with the new. (see Laura Blankenship, "Technology as a liberal art" for more on the liberal arts and technology.)
Much of the next generation of technology is found in Web 2.0 which refers to web development characterizedby communication, collaboration, and shared resources; nothing solid and tangibleat all. Examples of Web 2.0 tools are blogs, wikis, shared documents, studioprojects, and the plethora of web-based, free tools to organize and sharestudent work (see tech tidbits on the ATS web site). Technology has never been more conceptual. Web 2.0 is notjust the Web technology. It is a way of using the Web as a gathering placewhere students can create, cooperate, and experience the world. This technologydoes change how one teaches.
Web 2.0 is not really veryscary. It has something in common with drinking wine (or a beer) and with your colleagues and talking about your favorite research topics. (Don't be cynical, it could be lively.) If we are all curious and creative and have a natural desire to learn, then given facts and guidance from professors and some quiet moments to take it all in, perhaps students can allow their natural curiosity to take over as they collaborate, create and share.