Saturday, May 17, 2008

Technology Does Make a Difference!

Recently I was reading our local paper, The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, when I found an article reviewing a recent lecture given by Dr. Michael Bugeja. Dr. Bugeja is the director of the School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University. He seems to be a well-published author, but he seems to be on a one-man crusade against using technology in education.

As you might guess, I didn't agree with him on most of his ideas. I had listened to him on our local Iowa Public Radio station a few months ago and didn't agree with him then either. In fact, I called into the station to talk with him. We had just gotten the discussion going when the engineer at the station disconnected me. I was later assured that it was an accident.

Anywho, I read this article about a speech that he gave at the University of Northern Iowa and decided that I needed to share my side of the argument as well. Below you will see the letter to the editor that I wrote. I found writing this letter terribly therapeutic in many ways. I got to relieve my pent-up frustration from seeing this ludite educator receive all of this press. I also had a chance to share ideas about technology's role in education.

I hope that you like my letter and will share your insights with me. Better yet, if you DON'T like it, respond with where you think that I went astray:

Dear Courier Editor;

I am writing in response to Dr. Michael Bugeja comments as he “railed against the infusion of technology in the classroom.” I didn’t attend his hour-long talk that was covered in the Courier on Saturday, April 26, but I DID hear his interview on KUNI a couple of months ago on The Exchange. At that time he said that technology in the classroom was unnecessary. It was an unneeded expense for students and schools. He said that a good lecturer could make a teacher-based lesson engaging and that we didn’t need technology for that.
Admittedly, a good lecturer can be riveting. Descriptions of events can be useful. But how can a verbal description of Tiananmen Square replace a video of a single individual confronting a cavalry of tanks, which is easily accessible on YouTube. (http://snurl.com/25wql) How can it equal using Google Earth to transport the class to an interactive birds eye (and somewhat 3-D) view of Tiananmen Square? How can it match the impact of using a video conferencing program, Skype, to actually talk with someone in China who was at that monumental confrontation in 1989?
It can’t.
Our world is permanently linked. We have the opportunity to connect our classrooms with the rest of the world in a way that has never before been available. We have the resources that can turn the traditional didactic teacher-based instructional format into an interactive student-based learning experience that will enable our students to be active participants in our global society.

Sincerely,

Leigh E. Zeitz

Graphic from www.budapestsun.com

3 comments:

  1. I definitely agree with the statement that videos are helpful to bring things to life. I actually took a class on the history of China, so you're ideas hit home. Our professor was telling us all about communism and how terrible life in China was but until we saw the videos and listened to the people who actually experienced it first hand, it meant nothing. He could have talked and talked but only videos and biographies could bring it to life.

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  2. First of all, I can see by your blog that you are an educator who cares deeply about learning and students, and I applaud you for that.

    I call upon you now as a colleague to rethink your words describing me as being on a "one-man crusade."

    You see, I enter this debate having researched it for almost a decade now. Most of what I predicted about consumer technology in the classroom is based on research resulting in publication in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Oxford University Press, and newspapers worldwide--from the New York Times and Washington Post to USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor.

    My research investigates whether these technologies are programmed for revenue generation, not education. I have investigated whether the student loan scandal has allowed technological proliferation in recent years at universities, including our Regent ones in Iowa. Now that loans will be harder to get, enrollment will be affected, I predict, and we need educators like you to acknowledge that technology is expensive. Perhaps you can do serious research as to whether the investment is worth the tax dollar or not.

    My research has documented or predicted what is now obvious to almost everyone:

    1. Cell phones disrupt classrooms. Syllabi in nearly every university document restrictions and even confiscation.

    2. Second Life terms of service disavow liability (read the 8th U.S. District Court ruling on those ToS), making the institution liable if anything goes wrong (especially griefing): http://lawy-ers.com/robreno_order.pdf

    Even Cisco Systems acknowledges pitfalls of Second Life involving harassment. See "Second Life Needs Kindergarten Lessons" in the Orange County Register:
    http://www.ocregister.com/articles/virtual-worlds-life-2019749-second-online

    3. Audience response systems infected academe with infrared receivers that were inoperable--all to sell a few more textbooks, costing students nationwide millions of dollars and bypassing Regents' policies on charging fees without approval. Watch for a forthcoming article in The Chronicle about that.

    I could go on for dozens of examples.

    Also, as you didn't attend the lecture, I urged Northern Iowa to call upon its teaching expertise and compassion for students (which you have, it is clear, from your posts) and to assess learning outcomes before investing in consumer technologies.

    The newspaper article about my speech focused on one small part and missed the entire theme: We need to contain costs for higher education so that students and their parents can afford tuition.

    Your comments on my discussion at the Exchange neglect to mention that, too. As you blog (so do I, by the way), your post should contain a link to that interview so that your viewers can decide for themselves: http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/kuni/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=1213192§ionID=1586

    I have nothing against technology, as I am using it and responding to you as a blogger; but I see it for what it is, and I encourage you and other advocates to do the same.

    Technology hasn't democratized the classroom as it was billed to do; it has corporatized academe.

    We need people like you who care deeply about students and learning to investigate whether it is worth the cost and, if not, to confront that truth or refute my arguments.

    That said, I wish you the best in all of your endeavors. This is just an exchange between two colleagues who care about education. We may have different viewpoints, but our concerns emanate from a common bond, especially in Iowa.

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