Tuesday, May 09, 2006

By way of an introduction

Greetings New Researchers,
As I spend near-pathological amounts of time online—lurking on the blogs of friends, acquaintances, and colleagues; eBaying for things I don’t need and will never buy; reading about sports, music, and movies; and generally seeking out the various curiosities and oddities that make the world wide web at once enlightening and hilarious—I'm looking forward to thinking critically about the way "new media" shape our daily lives and our understandings of the world. In particular, I'm interested in the way cultural consumption has been forever altered.

Since I entered the iPod age two years ago, I've not purchased a proper "album "or engaged in one of my favorite pastimes of record store perusing. Since I got highspeed at home, I've stopped relying on Anthony Lane and David Denby to tell me which movies I should dislike and why I should dislike them; instead I rely on the collective wisdom of Metacritic. I no longer rely on the wit of the Portland Mercury or Seattle's The Stranger to get my weekly chuckles over the world of hip youth culture—The Onion and Viceland provide me with my dose of post-PC cultural humor. I no longer seek out my indie-rock-geek friends to find out the latest gossip; instead I've got the purveyor of indie-hegemony, Pitchfork.com, where my bookmarks bar takes me first thing every morning.

I've accepted all these changes in my daily routines—even celebrated the access to all this information—but I've not thought about what it all means. I'm excited that the Summit may afford me opportunity to reflect on these changes with others who've already theorized and thought carefully about them.

All that said, however, I think I may be a bit more ambivalent than other participants in this conversation about the ramifications these New Media may have on traditional classrooms and pedagogy. Given the tenor of the posts on this blog, I say this a bit reluctantly, for I fear it may mark me an anachronistic luddite: but I'm just not sure that I'm ready to embrace the Electronic--in all its myriad forms--if it means taking time away from real life discussions in the classroom.

To situate this assertion I should note that I'm coming off a year of teaching at the University of Alaska Southeast, where 30% of the credit hours are "delivered" via distance, and where this percentage is sure to increase in the coming years. I'll be returning there this fall, and one of my first assignments will be to help develop a massive Assessment Document that accounts for and documents virtually everything we do in our English classes to achieve the mandated Learning Outcomes--chief among these Learning Outcomes is preparing students for employment in the digital age.

So while I don't doubt that bringing technology into the classroom has the potential to enrich and enliven the educational experience, I also worry that for every gesture we—as academics and instructors—make toward embracing technology, administrators (who always seem to have their eye on the bottom line) are perhaps encouraged to make even more strident moves toward replacing the traditional classroom with the virtual one. While this is not necessarily a worry at well-established Research One institutions like OSU and the UO, at smaller universities and colleges, the movement toward the Phoenix University model and away from the "outdated" traditional model is well underway.

So the central question for me will be not how can I use these technologies or which one's should I use, but, rather, are there ways that I can embrace and negotiate new types of research that don't distract us from what I take to be the most important business of an education: face-to-face conversations about issues and ideas that matter.

I'll stop this long-winded introduction here, for I fear I may have moved beyond questions of "research" toward my own anxieties about technology and the increasingly "managed" world of the New University.

Looking forward to our upcoming summit-in-the-flesh,



At 4:56 AM, Anonymous ResumesExperts said...

Kevin, I share your concern about technology influence on the academic process. Well, I do understand, that teachers and libraries can not be substituted with even the most advanced technologies. I am of those " old chaps" who won't learn new tricks as they say and applying technological approaches in classroom is an undertaking for me.

At 9:19 AM, Blogger Michael Faris said...

Kevin, I'd like to think most of would be against using technology in education if it means taking time away from real life discussions in the classroom. . I'm looking forward to meeting you today, and finding what others are discussing and presenting that hopefully can help students engage in more discussion.


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