During my lunch date with the latest issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education yesterday, an article titled “Why all humanists should go to prison” caught my attention. The author, Alex Tipei, describes how teaching at a women’s prison in Indiana has made her question if the high-tech model of higher education that incorporates social media, PowerPoints, YouTube, Google Maps etc. into nearly every class has trapped us in a technology driven, money spending, training intense model of education that has lost the essence of good teaching and learning somewhere along the way. She writes:
“At the prison, however, technology-driven pedagogy wasn’t an option. I had to eliminate the technologies I already relied on, rather than introduce new ones. I began to question why I had used specific tools in the first place. Had I depended on lecture slides to help my students follow along? Or were they there to keep me on point? Did videos add to the course content or simply fill up discussion time? If they did augment the material, were there other ways to arrive at the same place — means that refrained from directing everyone’s attention to a screen rather than to one another?”
Do you know why you use certain classroom technologies? Sometimes I feel like the PowerPoint slides that I recycle from year to year with a few updates here and there are a crutch for both me and the students – I use them to keep the lecture on track and students know that all the most important information that will be on the test can be found in those slides. Does my reliance on this simple tool prevent me from developing more interesting, interactive, engaging, and thought provoking discussion tools for the classroom? Maybe I would be a better teacher if I chose to unplug every now and then and instead tried to focus my energy and prep time to be ready to facilitate classroom discussions that encouraged participation by all students.
What would it look like if all the money we spend on technology and training for how to use that technology was instead spent on true faculty development that helped us become outstanding teachers that could teach anywhere - unplugged or connected to the world?
What does your teaching look like? Is it unplugged or do you rely on technology in the classroom? What are the advantages and disadvantages of either approach?