I, For One, Welcome Our New Robot Overlords

Fans of The Simpsons will probably recognize the reference in this post’s title; it comes from a 1994 episode where news anchor Kent Brockman is reporting on what he thinks is an invasion of alien ants: “I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.” It’s a wickedly funny episode (as most early Simpsons were), but Brockman’s line has taken on a pop-culture life of its own since then.

Which brings me to digital pedagogy and blended/online learning. For many of us, the overheated rhetoric and fervent True-Believer nature of the EdTech proselytizers can be pretty off-putting. On the other end of the spectrum are the prophets of doom saying that all of this technological integration has actually hurt education; it’s made our students dumb, “stupefied,” in one pundit’s view. But for those of us who prefer actual research, as opposed to anecdotal grumbling about Kids These Days, the conversations are more complicated, and far more nuanced.

What does it mean to teach digitally? How is technology good–or not good–for student learning? How can we use and misuse our tools? We know that [Tool X] won’t automatically take our students and make them, like the mythical schoolchildren of Lake Wobegon, all above average. But we also know that [Tool X] won’t spark the end of western civilization (that’s Donald Trump’s job), nor will it somehow numb the cerebral cortex of a typical college student. We also are finding out just how inadequate and superficial labels like “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” obscure more than they reveal about our students and their interactions with technology. It’s a brave new world (pun only partially intended) for technology in teaching. And this year, Grand View is engaged in a range of discussions about our place within that world. This week’s links will help us frame these conversations, welcome our new robot overlords, and hopefully spark some ideas and enlarge some perspectives.

Donna Lanclos, an anthropologist-turned-university-librarian in the UNC system, has a really smart take on the whole “digital natives” construct (spoiler: she’s not a fan). Instead, she suggests, let’s talk about “visitors” and “residents.” Isn’t this just semantics? you ask; why does this make a difference? Read her story of “How I learned to Stop Worrying about Digital Natives and love V&R” for yourself and see.

What do we mean when we talk about “digital pedagogy” from a college-level teaching and learning perspective? Hybrid Pedagogy, a great online journal on the subject, published a two-part series on this very question that is thought-provoking, challenging, and yet affirming of the essence of what we do as teachers. Jesse Stommel, in the series’ second article, argues that:

You can’t outsource digital pedagogy, because it is inextricably bound up in the work of teaching and learning. Digital pedagogy is not a path through the woods. It’s a compass (one that often takes several people working in concert to use). And in the next 10 years, digital pedagogy will become (and already is to an extent) coterminous with pedagogy. We do not, after all, talk about chalkboard pedagogy, even though the chalkboard is one of the most advanced and revolutionary educational tools.

Sean Michael Morris, the author of Part 1, starts his article with the rather startling claim that “we are not ready to teach online.” Why? Well, for Morris, we’re trapped by our LMSs. That’s right: Blackboard is eating us all. It’s a provocative argument, but one that makes us think about why we choose–and thus make our students use–the tools we do.

Speaking of tools we choose, there’s a growing movement to move away from PowerPoint, that ubiquitous slide-show software that appears in seemingly any classroom or meeting where there are more than two people. Katrin Park, writing in the Washington Post last Spring, declares “PowerPoint should be banned,” using–you guessed it–a PowerPoint presentation to make her point.

That’s all for this week; there will be plenty of opportunities to further explore all of these issues, and participate in these conversations, as we continue this academic year. Stay tuned!

Looking for resources? Ideas? Help?

Click here for this week’s CETL Library Spotlight

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Hey, STEM folks: check out this upcoming MOOC on “Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching” at https://www.coursera.org/course/stemteaching. The course starts on September 28, and the facilitators are a top-notch group.

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