Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Higher Ed Tech behind

There's been a fair amount of digital ink spilled already about this report from CDW about faculty, IT staff, and student perceptions of technology use in teaching. My response was, "Duh." The biggest barrier to use: lack of knowledge on the part of faculty. The problem is, as I've said over and over, is that faculty won't take responsibility for learning the technology. There is no scalable way for most institutions to provide enough support for a technology expert to do most things for the faculty. We can't be there every time you need to turn on the projector in the classroom or upload a document to Blackboard.

We are currently running two day-long workshops, thanks to NITLE, on using technology. Less than 10 of our faculty are in attendance at either session. That's less than 1% of our total faculty. I see the same kind of attendance at shorter workshops that I offer throughout the year. We've done research that shows that faculty don't want to learn this way; they want one-on-one assistance as they're working with technology.

Honestly, most of the technology used today is not rocket science. Back when I first started word processing, you had to remember the markup for line breaks and bold and paragraph indents. Now word processing works just like your old typewriter did. You no longer need to type things at the C: prompt to run programs or find files. You can search via a little box that's replicated not just on desktops but in browsers and other programs. Yes, if you want to experiment with GIS or another complex technology, you're approaching a difficulty level where assistance from an expert is warranted. But if you're interested in 95% of the technology stuff that's being used, all you really need to do is spend some time trying some things. I think most Ph.D.'s can figure out chat, blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, etc. on their own. Where they may need help is figuring out the best way to take advantage of these tools or figuring out how best to implement them in their classes. Maybe that part needs to come first in order to get faculty to take responsibility. I'm not sure, but I do know that we need to get past this knowledge barrier to get to the good stuff.