Friday, February 04, 2011

More face-to-face, less face-to-screen?

Professor Sharon Marshall, of St John's College, reflects on the uses -- and abuses -- of BlackBoard in the 21st Century college learning environment (in the Chronicle of Higher Education).

She observes:

"My ideal class—students sitting in a circle, or around a seminar table if we're really lucky, discussing, reading aloud, exchanging hard copies of student papers—had become, in a sense, a figure of nostalgia. It was something I did with students "back in the day."

Gradually it became clear that, given the choice, most students preferred to live online, rather than engage with actual humans in a classroom, even when there was a seeming sense of community or camaraderie among classmates. Being online all the time had become learned behavior that was hard to give up, even for only 55 minutes."

And asks:

"Because technology plays such a huge role in our lives when we are not in school, is it really necessary that we duplicate those experiences and environments when we actually have the opportunity to connect in more direct and immediate ways in a synchronous classroom?"

And concludes:

"The flip side of technophobia is the kind of unexamined technophilia that welcomes everything new and different, whether or not it improves life or teaching, or the lives of students and teachers. I want to find a place, a stance, somewhere in between, a both/and strategy that allows my students and me to, dare I say it, extract the best of both worlds."

Do we have the balance right?

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