“I’m as mad as Hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

25 07 2011

Well, sort of. I am starting to feel a bit like the Peter Finch character in “Network” in the sense that whenever I write about online education or technological pedagogy in a cynical manner, my ratings go up. Besides, how can you not help but get mad when you read stuff like this (via Ray Schroeder’s Twitter feed*):

Students increasingly expect to use mobile devices, social networking sites and other tools to find information in class. And faculty have to look for different ways to incorporate these powerful computing tools into educational discussions.

I hear that second graders increasingly expect to get more recess time and that their teachers must give it to them or else they’ll be swept away by the tide of history. OK, maybe that’s unfair since college students are adults, but since when do students get to call the shots about how they’re going to be taught? If they want better food in the cafeteria, I’ll sign the petition. If they want to get university clothing made in sweatshops out of the bookstore, I’ll march with them. However, under no circumstances will I let them spend my entire class period fiddling with their phones. Sheesh. Next thing you know they’ll be punishing professors for enforcing rules about plagiarism. Oh wait…

While I’m in full Peter Finch mode, let me just note that stereotyping academics in order to cram technological de-skilling down our throats doesn’t help my mood:

“At the heart of every faculty member is a curious kid who’s a little geeky and really fascinated by the world around him or her,” [Gardner] Campbell [director of professional development and innovative initiatives at Virginia Tech] said.

Or perhaps we’re all just a bunch of “self-important, delusional jackasses.” While both those stereotypes undoubtedly apply to some of us [I freely admit that both those comments describe me to at least some extent.], there’s no way they apply to all of us. But if the public comes to believe that we are all just a bunch of self-important children, the few prerogatives that we have left will quickly disappear.

In other words, once the war on secondary school teachers is over, they’ll be coming for the college professors next. Heck, if you’re adjunct faculty, they probably started coming for you while you were still in elementary school. You just didn’t know it yet. Therefore, when I read something like this:

So most faculty resist new technology to a point because it doesn’t make sense to them…

I see the first stages of an infantilization campaign afoot. “College professors? They don’t know how to teach. All they care about is all that research that nobody is going to read anyways. Technology will save us all, and at a cheaper price too!”

Well, I’m not buying it. So while I have not yet reached the stage of opening my window and screaming at the world (Ah…if my office only had a window!), if this technological stuff is the only thing that gets me motivated to write blog posts I plan on continuing to listen to my inner-Faye Dunaway for the foreseeable future.

* I make this attribution here because if you’re really interested in this technological stuff (that means you MfD), you really ought to be reading it too.

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4 responses

25 07 2011
Rohan Maitzen

Wow, it’s really pick your poison, isn’t it? We can be patronized or be insulted! I’ve met a lot more pompous jackasses outside the academy than in it, myself. But the point about faculty being soured on technology because of having to use badly designed platforms does ring true (speaking as someone laboring to put nest term’s Blackboard sites in order).

25 07 2011
Music for Deckchairs

Oh dear, you know you’re only moments away from a Hitler’s Downfall parody.

But seriously, this is the stuff that also has me grinding my teeth at the moment. Having just sat through a slew of vendor demonstrations I have also found it increasingly painful to deal with their evangelical fervour, based as it seems to be on the belief that none of us a) know how to teach b) know anything about students and c) know anything about anything else.

Where are the signs of hope? At the moment, I’m not entirely sure. But this post is a terrific, serious expansion of the discussion beyond the pros and cons of online this and that to the way in which the stereotyping of academics is being played out in the theatre of public suspicion. Thank you.

26 07 2011
Middle Seaman

I don’t grind my teeth; I bite. They scream, holler and don’t raise my salary. I am not particularly concerned.

I suggest not to oppose means (technology) and concentrate on goals (teaching better). Ten years ago the school’s computing facilities were stubborn, rude and useless. I went out and contracted with a private vendor (in the UK through the Internet) for what my class needed. It cost me $400. Technology and decent services help. The student in this class, long ago graduated, still appreciate the experience.

Don’t Finch, get better. If student’s wishes can accommodated, why resist. Instead of emails send them SMS. Have a Facebook page. Who cares. My alma mater had the following “motto”: “The university consists of three groups, admin, faculty and students. Admins hate the faculty; the faculty hates the admins; they both hate the students.” Student are important and should be involved in decisions, discussions and treated with the highest respect. Listen to their comments on what you do or will do.

My students were and are nicer and smarter than most of my colleagues.

26 07 2011
Jonathan Rees

Rohan:

It’s more like some self-interested people are patronizing us. Some of these same people are insulting us. A few are doing one or the other.

What we aren’t getting is an honest discussion between tech people and professors about the strengths and weaknesses of particularly technologies with respect to the promotion of serious learning because the companies trying to sell this stuff have different goals than we do.

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