Education Technology and Teaching in Higher Ed

What are your thoughts on education technology and teaching? I’m rather conflicted about it myself.

I read an article for class this week called From Scarcity To Abundance: Achieving Quality-Ensured Mass Higher Education that made me stop and think about how I have previously considered the integration of some forms of technology in the classroom.

All of the courses I have taught are practice oriented and require engagement and collaboration with others that could not take place individually behind a computer screen, so in many ways I have been resistant to say, making the entirety of a course electronic without class time.

I appreciated reading “From Scarcity to Abundance” because it helped to reframe the conversation for me, and caused me to critically examine my resistance.

By framing the case for the need to integrate more online education into the classroom as an argument about access, it challenged some of my resistance, including fears that it would be used to depersonalize and replace the peer to peer and peer to instructor interaction that I find so enjoyable in the classes I have taught and the ones in which I have been a student.

When I think about access to education, the idea of more technological integration makes a lot of sense. Reading about how an educational model based on scarcity has in fact, created much of the inequity that exists today in regards to college access, and sends messages to those who either cannot afford the “traditional” college experience that they are either not smart enough, or that they do not deserve education because they cannot afford it connected deeply with my own experiences, the experiences of some of the students I have have taught, as well as the disparity that exists on a national level in regards to college access.

There are many smart, capable people who would do well in whatever field they wish to enter in, but because of life circumstances, and a variety other reasons they do not have the access to obtain the credentialed education that would grant them further access into their desired career. In this way, access to education is a matter of privilege and not a matter of intelligence.

 

Keeping all this in mind however, listing to Audrey Watters’ interview on the Re:Learning Podcast  above describing technology as the trojan horse to dismantle the academy confirmed many of the reservations I have about how online technology can be used. It took me right back to that hesitant place.

In some ways, I have considered it the equivalent of the automated grocery store checkout line of higher education in that, although the use of some forms of tech might make it convenient for others to consume the knowledge, it could potentially eliminate professorial positions in higher ed in the long-term.

Watters also talked about the adjunctification of higher education, and in some ways, I feel like converting everything online can exacerbate that process.

 


Note: I can, and probably will write extended notes about the conditions of adjunct professors around the country, but for right now, check out these following articles and do some further digging on your own:

The scarcity to abundance article, and Watters’ podcast interview cause me to ponder the inevitability of change and also to think on the question of if all change is good. There’s a shift in higher ed from teaching and curriculum to being more outcomes and results focused.

Where colleges and universities may have been once viewed as single sources of information, technological advances has made it so that information is more widely and easily available than it has ever been.

Even though I love to share my thoughts and experiences publicly through Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian, at times trying to have dialogue online about social issues related to my life, profession, and areas of study leave a lot to be desired lacking the person-to-person interaction that can be found in a live classroom. Also, the idea of outsourcing lectures is very concerning to me.

There continues to be much debate about the increasing need for online education to be integrated into higher ed. It’s pretty clear to me that technological advances and the need to be connected globally are concerns and realities that are not going away. Certain technologies will be integrated into classrooms even more as time progresses, but faculty can and should play an integral role in figuring out what that could look like.

It’s possible to hold more than one reality at once. Education needs to become more accessible, and information is widely available. In both realities I’m concerned with mutually beneficial solutions and preventing oppressive conditions.

In that same stream of thought, I’m also very concerned about gatekeeping. With information being more readily available for some folks these days through the advent and innovation of the internet and other forms of tech, and high levels of student debt compared with diminishing return on investment in terms of economically in terms of job prospects for some graduating students, I’m wondering how institutions will navigate defining what are “credible” and “acceptable” outlets for education.

When more and more people begin to wonder and make connections to the idea that although formalized education helps, it is not necessarily a guaranteed ticket to upward mobility, in this age of information, I am left wondering what kind of shift would be necessary for employers to accept say, an iTunes university course over college credits.

I also read a line this week in the report The Future of Higher Education: How Technology Will Shape Learning that talked about an increase in corporate-academic partnerships. While it may not always be a bad idea inherently, the idea is concerning to me because as the academy becomes increasingly dependent on corporate dollars for funding, I am worried about how corporate interests can drive what gets funded, and what does not, particularly if projects critically challenge conditions created by corporations or capitalism in general. These relationships can be inappropriate and manipulative if left unchecked.

So if you haven’t already guessed, I go back and forth in relation to how much certain types of technology should be incorporated into the classroom, but I need the help of others to give me a more complete perspective.

What are your thoughts?

Ubuntu,

From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins-Jones, MSW, LLMSW

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I'm a Social Worker, Educator, and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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