So, I made a PowerPoint presentation for one of today’s classes–the first one I’ve made since 2007. (I was inspired by a phrase I came across–“PowerPoint Karaoke,” which describes the experience of having someone read their slides to you–to try out a new activity. I thought that was hilarious.)
Anyway, as I was doing it, I started thinking about an article I stumbled upon a couple of summers ago in Wired called “PowerPoint is Evil” which pretty much persuaded me that my suspicions (that I was better off without it) were justified. The preparations I was making for class were fairly mindless and rote (copying and pasting), so I then started thinking about some other great tech related articles I’d read through the years (like this one and this one) and some interesting research I’ve seen here and there.
And then I started thinking about the IPad, and all its hype/hootenanny, not to mention speculation about what it will become even as it is in the process of becoming it, which got me thinking about the Digital Divide and how long it had been since I’d heard that term (and how much more difficult it is now to justify ongoing belief in it within our society, at least, given the ubiquity and power of cell phones (examples abound–last week I admonished a student for texting in class, only to have her show me that she was reading looking at the day’s text, which had been posted on Blackboard, searching for a quote. On the train home tonight, there were six people with books, two with newspapers, one with a printout of some pages, and six reading their phones. Not playing games on them, not just reading email–reading long form text on their smart phones.)).
And as all of this was swirling around in my head, I started to wonder if there is such a thing as a “too techy” classroom and, conversely, a classroom that is “not techy enough.” I know that technology is killing me–once upon a time, a mere nine years ago, I handed out a syllabus at the beginning of class and that was their guide. Students who lost it might ask me for another copy, but the syllabus was the info, and for most of them it was one and done.
Now, I give them a syllabus, then I post it on Blackboard, then I post each day’s assignments under Assignments on Blackboard, with occasional, additional announcements reminding students about key projects or dates. Yet, despite all this redundancy, I still have students who email or ask about dates and assignments and the rest. I can’t just blow any of it off, though, because best practices and research of all sorts state the importance of all of these techniques for maximizing student learning. I understand that, certainly, but all of it comes at a price, too. That’s all time that I don’t have to talk to students or respond to their work a little faster.
There was a time when “technological literacy” was a legitimate goal for our courses–when our students were systematically excluded from tools of cultural power and capital building (like computers and Internet access), but you’d be hard pressed to find a student in any of my classes without a cell phone and a Facebook page. I realize that these things don’t make them technologically literate, but it is the very rarest of students who don’t know how to navigate the ‘net and email and the rest these days. The so-called age of the Digital Natives has dawned.
What if I told you I were considering teaching a class next semester without technology of any sort being involved. What would you think? Can it be done? Should it be done? Should it not? How much is too much when it comes to technology and teaching? How much is not enough?