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While reading this article from Inside Higher Ed I thought about my experience as a student of traditional classrooms and digital classrooms, someone who works closely with educational technology, and someone as a teacher.  I took all of those experiences and thought about what I truly think about digital education.  What follows is sure to be a convoluted and complicated answer only slightly less complicated than this the issue itself.

 

First and foremost, despite loving Coursera and excited to be a student again, my heart still misses sitting inside a seminar reading debating with my fellow nerds about books and theories and art.  I enjoy Coursera and I actually have terribly missed homework but I LOVE traditional classrooms.  I miss having a direct contact with students and a professor.  I genuinely contemplated Steve’s article from Inside Higher Ed and I agree that videos help in creating a more human element but I still miss the human contact.  I miss the debates that happened before and after class as you got to know your classmates and who they are as people and continue the conversation after class into bars.  I miss seeing the passion.

I do know that there are Google hangouts, online forums, and skype chats with other students and teachers.  There even is the benefit of spending time with a heterogeneous group from all over the world instead of a group of students who are all the same.   Plus, you get so many more opinions and diversity.  Though I can see it and grasp the benefits intellectually, I have trouble buying into it. Oftentimes I find myself overwhelmed with how many ideas float around.  There are so many people that I never feel I find a “friend” or someone whose ideas I can track from beginning to the end.  While seeing a professor is great on videos, it still lacks the interactive component.  And despite the chats and tweeting capabilities, it lacks something human for me.  I don’t always feel connected to what is going on.

Even after all that is said, I still love technology and am an advocate.  For the disenfranchised it offers a chance of beginning to close the gap in education; it levels the playing field.  It can provide education quick, cheap, and personalized all while giving individuals valuable real world skills in the use of technology.  Also, studies are starting to show how exceptional it can be for gifted students and those with various autism spectrum disorders.  Knowing all that how could I not love it.  But it is like everything, it needs to be moderated.  At the end of the day I still love traditional educational settings with a live teacher and students but I think technology can successfully be used to enhance traditional education and for those who have little or no access to education it can mean a world of distance.  I just think there should still be a truly human component.

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nook'ed

nook’ed (Photo credit: Cem K. (iyiinsan))

 

Watching Bendito Machine III I found it a perfect representation of all my hopes and anxieties surrounding technology.  I always look admiringly at the Ipad as I read the Walter Iasscson biography. Yet, something causes me fear.  I refuse to give in and sign up for a Twitter account, I use a Nook not an ipad, and my cell phone is anything but smart.  Still like the worshippers in Bendito Machine III I find myself allured and drawn to something. I signed up for a class completely designed around the digital culture I refuse to give fully into.  Maybe it is because I enjoy having some privacy, an area of my life that is not public to anyone with a bizarre interest in the mundane aspects in my life or someone with a malicious desire to ruin my life with bad photos tweeted out to anyone who has ever met me.

 

We all love technology but it becomes disposable in moments.  As the generation first exposed to video games and the new systems that came out every proceeding year, it gets difficult to keep.  You constantly put the money out to learn the latest device.  Then you have to take the time to learn how to use it and utilize it effectively.  It becomes an obsessive fad. iPads, iPhones, mp3s, Angry Birds, Moocs, etc.  I believe technology can change the world but as Jobs-like worshippers experienced in the video as soon as they found a new idol of technology it was already past its prime.  These technologies receive no time to be fully experienced or explored.  Instead they are dumped on us, as literally depicted in the video or how the television idol could not sit still for more than a moment.  It quickly switched from useless topics of selling cars to beauty pageants to commercials to children with guns to war imagery.  You cannot pin down something moving that fast. Instead we will always be playing catch up with the technology.

 

Again, this does not mean that technology is just that it has to be explored.  Someone needs to be brave enough to take a step back and examine the situation.  At the end of the video after the Internet collapsed and crushed its users you notice one sole survivor escaping the turmoil to move away.  Instead of thinking he is running away I like to think that he just needed space and was not giving up on it altogether.  Only with room to breathe can we look at it objectively and determine its worth.

 

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