Monday, July 16, 2007

Response to "Pimp my Course"

So I was reading through my favorite learning blogs this morning when I came across this post by Stephen Downes recounting the blogosphere reaction to an academic professor's article at The Chronicle of Higher Education. The article by Rob Jenkins, an associate professor of English and director of the Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College, does appear a bit snarky when it deals with education: Pimp My Course.

So far I haven't done a very good job. Though not exactly a neo-Luddite, I never fully signed on to the electronic revolution, despite the fact that, like many two-year colleges, mine is mega-wired, with at least one computer in each classroom. Most also have overhead data projectors, many have Smart Boards or Sympodiums, and a few are even dedicated to computer-assisted instruction, with 24 stations each.

I confess that in the past I've grossly underutilized those resources, frittering them away in such pedestrian activities as projecting students' sentences onto the whiteboard (where I, of course, proceed to rip them to shreds with a red Expo marker) and allowing students to use their computer workstations to edit and revise rough drafts in class (when they aren't looking at MySpace).

But is the solution to Mr. Jenkins' article merely to heap disdain upon him? Even Mr. Downes, whom I respect for his efforts to advance the use of technology in education dismisses Mr. Jenkins' writing with "I call it the characteristically lazy and sloppy journalism that serves as the best evidence we could ask for regarding the increasing irrelevance of traditional media." I'm not about to dismiss traditional media, heck, I'm not even sure Mr. Jenkins' article was traditional media, unless traditional media is anything you have to read.

But beyond that point I would like to offer up a few suggestions to Mr. Jenkins.

  1. You don't have to jump head first into the deep end of the educational technology pool. You obviously have stuck your toe in and the water was apparently two chilly for you. I recommend you go to the shallow end and enter gradually.
  2. Take a look at this great YouTube video which sums up the whole Web 2.0 thing. If you don't want to leave this post (and I'm honored that you think I am being of assistance), here's that same video linked into this post.

  3. Don't just talk to your colleagues, talk to your IT department, especially those responsible for assisting the distance learning element of your school to run their classes.
  4. Ask your students what they think. Sometimes its best to go to the source, while I appreciate that you have much more experience teaching then they do it does not mean you discount totally what the customer wants. Just look at what happened to the big Detroit automakers as gas prices began spiraling upwards in the mid70s to today. People abandoned them and their gas guzzling products for the more dependable fuel-efficient imports that now seem to rule the marketplace.
Technology in the classroom is not an all or nothing equation. I'm sure your IT department will be more than willing to advise you as you move forward.

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