Monday, October 6, 2008

Don't forget the little people

At the end of each summer, as the throngs of students with their newly purchased iThings return to campus, the inevitable thought comes - wouldn't we be better off if there weren't so many students around? Of course, the students are the reason we're here, right? Of what use would a university be if it wasn't for them? So we exist to help them. We are teaching and molding them. There is nothing they can possibly teach us. Right?

D'Arcy Norman recently vlogged on the need for institutions of higher education to open up more to what their constituents are doing. If we provide resources that are of no interest to students, they will not use them. We need to look at what the students are doing and bring the institution to them.

Felonius expounds on Selber's assertions:

Meeting the needs and goals of ongoing computer literacy programs in college course curriculum is going to be an institution-level enterprise, initiated from the department, and even university ground up. Individual instructors may work on an island, as individual bastions of the changes Selber is stating need to happen, but without a mandate and most importantly money at an institutional level, the changes will be haphazard at best, and limited in effectiveness.

If anything, though, the one thing I doubt about Selber's book is that he doesn't fully define what happens if we don't change. If status quo remains—and all indications are that it's going to for the foreseeable future—what are the end results? He mentions an alienation and lack of control by the average student and technology user, but how is that different from now? And to a degree, what's to say that other outside forces won't maintain an equilibrium that Selber hasn't considered?

We may be able to agree that the institution needs to standardize on something, so we're not haphazardly flinging money and technology around, but if students are feeling alienated and have no control, is it because the institution hasn't built a big enough or fancy enough vault to lock their work, discussions, and relationships into? Or is it because the institution does not follow the students' lead? What if Facebook worked like Blackboard? What if Blackboard worked like Facebook? Am I out of touch or missing something, because I have not yet joined Facebook?

Knowing (hoping) he won't take this the wrong way, I want to look back at Felonius' blog again for just a minute. I wanted to leave a comment on the posting I linked to and quoted above, but I did not want to take the time to register an account with his site. So I can't. So I didn't. I rarely register with a site just to post a reply, unless I'm really upset about something. I'm unlikely to change. So I may post a link from my blog to something interesting on his page, but I won't comment on his page. I can't. On the same note, some friends of mine have locked up their family blogs for privacy reasons, which is their prerogative. I have no complaint; if anything, I applaud them for taking steps to protect the privacy of their families, which more of us should do. But I rarely read their blogs anymore, because they do not show up in my feed reader. I can visit their sites. But I don't. I use Blackboard when I have to either as an instructor or a student, but they can't make me like it. How many of the 25,000+ little people in the USU community like Blackboard, I wonder? How many like Facebook?

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