Technology in Higher Ed: One step at a time.

I have been discussing with my brother and the great folks at our TLT department different ways to implement technology, specifically delivery of course content such as Duke’s iPod program and student created dossiers such as one of the many ePortfolio services. As someone who loves to embrace new tech I have also been cautious about employing it in the classroom until I know that it brings added value to the learning experience and has staying power. That being said, some thoughts occurred to me today that might be worth sharing.

iPods and content delivery: One step on a long journey
Heh, who wouldn’t love to get a new iPod to play with? We know that large numbers of our students already have mp3 devices (over 40% this year, I am told). So, let’s just tap into that! But faculty are a wary bunch and need to be persuaded that this is not just more work for them. (Not to mention that students may not want an iPod, have a different player, can’t afford one, etc. Those are other compelling concerns.) What I am realizing wrt to faculty, course content, and electronic delivery is that we need to make a data as unfettered as possible. That is to say, Dr. Wallace will be more likely to record his lectures, and perhaps even incorporate his PPT into an enhanced mp3, if he knows that it will still be a useful and accessible resource in the future.

The administrator in me wants to know if, for example, buying iPods for 200 students as a pilot is worthwhile. When we consider the life of the device, the concerns of being locked into a particular format (AAC?), and the cost of training faculty and students, I begin to question whether that is a sound investment. But when I begin to view this as one step on a continuing journey I am less concerned about the future of the iPod and more interested in the pedagogical process. How are we going to deliver course content tomorrow, next year, five years from now, etc.? How are the students going to access and interact with the content? How will it enhance and aid them in learning?

So if we frame the discussion in terms of which next step on this journey is going to take us in the right direction (not lead us into a dead end, or commit us to a rocky path, and so on until the metaphor is abused beyond all recognition) then I think we will have more constructive initiatives and I think we will bring more faculty along with us. We won’t be doing things “because we can” but because they are helping us move farther along our path while reassuring the faculty that data will still be accessible, malleable, and (hopefully) useful down the road.

I have more thoughts on this but now I need to return to old-fashioned pedagogical styles such as writing and delivering a paper.

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