Inside Higher Ed reports on a study that says that faculty think they’re more tech savvy than their students think they are. Color me unsurprised! Second commenter “bevo” explains some of the perception gap here, and asks, “Why do we assume that all technology has to improve education?” Why indeed? It’s only useful if it’s used thoughtfully and effectively.
In case you haven’t guessed, I’m pretty far from what you’d call an “early adapter” of anything. But, I’m open to whatever works–I don’t see me adopting Twitter for use in class or out, but I think it’s great if other faculty want to experiment with it and figure out how it’s useful for their pedagogical goals.
I’ve become a big adherent of PowerPoint, because of its ability to incorporate visual and verbal information–I’m able to include analyses of a wider range of documentary and material culture sources in my lectures because of it. (That, and the fact that there are so many big, beautiful color images of just about everything that I can rip from the web.) But, it took me a long time to switch from a lecture outlined on an overhead projector to PowerPoint. When people first started using PowerPoint, I was extremely underwhelmed with how they were using it: either as a digital overhead projector, with the same outline and bullet points, or illustrated badly with anachronistic images. I don’t use any images that can’t be analyzed as primary sources–a challenge in my period, but it can be done.
Switching to PowerPoint changed my lectures, which became less detail- and narrative-driven, and more opportunities for exploring “big concepts” with both verbal and visual information that I hope will set the stage for the week’s readings in each of my classes. I think my lectures are more interesting and more effective, in part because of the technology. (Perhaps the PowerPoint just gave me a prompt or an assist to what probably happens anyway after 5 or 10 years of teaching; I used to walk into class with 8 single-spaced pages of notes, then with 5 pages, then with 3 pages, then sometimes with just an outline. . . now with the outlines of the lectures embedded in my PowerPoint slides, I don’t bring any notes at all to class, and can just riff on the slides.)
What technologies do you use now that you can’t imagine doing without? What technologies have you attempted but failed to integrate into your pedagogy? I can’t see myself using social networking or other web 2.0 technologies, at least not yet. I think my students still need practice presenting their ideas and discussing course readings face-to-face–call me old-fashioned, but I think class discussions in real time are useful in developing intellectual, social, and professional skills that are central to the healthy functioning of the demos.