Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The future of Educational Technologists

I've been thinking a lot lately about what educational/instructional technologists should or will be doing 5 years from now. Some of my thinking was prompted by this post, lamenting the technological gap that exists between teachers and technologists. The author was not, as I often am, saying that the teachers need to get with the program, learn these new technologies or else. Basically, he says the technologists are moving too fast and they need to spend more time supporting their teachers.

But this is the rub. What does it mean to support faculty in their technology use?

Increasingly, I think most faculty want people who will do things for them. I don't blame them for this. It's easier to have someone else scan your documents or images, build your web sites, organized your course in a cms than to learn and do these things for themselves. Certainly, the structures of the institution don't give faculty time to do these things. And, increasingly, institutions are hiring people to do this work rather than the more consultative type work most instructional technologists feel they are best suited for.

I think most faculty know that to incorporate technology well would not only mean a large investment of time, but also a change in the status quo. They would have to rethink their teaching. An most faculty don't want to do that with or without technology involved. As my students have said, "You can't really get someone to learn this stuff if they come to you with a closed mind." And far too many faculty have closed their minds to technology. The reasons are many and complex, but it means that instructional technologists are faced with an almost insurmountable challenge. Or a choice.

We can support the status quo--running our Blackboard workshops, writing documentation for Blackboard, meeting with faculty one on one to work on Blackboard. Or we can build systems that may or may not be used--blogs, wikis, data-driven web sites. Or we can fight the system, advocate for change. The problem is we are not positioned to advocate. We don't serve on the committees or attend the meetings where change happens.

I know I've said this a hundred times before, but I guess I figure that if I just reword it a little, maybe I'll hit the right combination of words to get through to the right combination of people. Or maybe I'm preaching to the choir. The thing is, I don't disagree with the blogger I linked to above or with the idea of providing technology production services for faculty. The problem is I don't want to teach someone how to do Power Point or to scan their documents for them. If that's what they want, then well . . .