Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Week 9 - خلاص

As our semester draws to its close, we end with penultimate week with Negroponte, who discusses bits vs atoms. His foresight was impressive, since his article was written in 1995. Even then, he knew that reading, researching, writing, teaching, accounting – heck, thousands of tasks were being revolutionized. “As one industry after another looks at itself in the mirror and asks about its future in the digital world, that future is driven almost 100% by the ability of that company’s product or services to be rendered in digital form” (p. 5).

It is now 2011, and bits as well as bits-about-bits are familiar territory for all of us TCR-types. One of the many things I learned over our semester together is that it is more or less a one-stop shop. Since then, record and bookstores, like so many other businesses and niches, have become obsolete or have expanded online. Most electronic resources are slicker, infinitely more efficient, practical, engaging, and certainly more significant in our day and age. I didn’t realize how much I depended on it until I wrote one of my posts for the Composition wiki final, which made me pause for a second. For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, it is out there, our beloved information superhighway is here to stay, it is all-pervasive, and it is in our best interest to evolve with the times.

Most of the times I agree with Negroponte, that the acquisition of technological skills is hard fun, but there are times when I don’t want to struggle with learning a new interface, a new platform. Sometimes I’m tired, and I want something that doesn’t challenge me as I’m structuring a document or navigating through it as I set it up. I get annoyed with silly iTunes rules…but I sure do like the results once I’ve ironed out the technological wrinkles.

We are lucky, aren’t we? No more card catalogs like we grew up with. No more heavy textbooks either. We have an entire universe of 13 trillion websites at our disposal for our educational purposes. If we don’t know how to do something (What are good examples of APA style / white papers / collaborative learning?), we simply look it up on the web until we get exactly what we need. As Negroponte mentions, learning by doing has quickly become the rule rather than the exception.
We educators must think and re-think what we’re going to do, how we’re going to do it, and why. This is more important than ever before because as someone in our class recently mentioned, our students think in bits. It is our obligation to search for relevant solutions in order to make those important student-teacher connections, to push students along just enough so that we don’t discourage them, to seek those tools that will assist us in delivering our message and winning over as many as humanly possible.

Thanks for a very frustrating, terrifying, invigorating, and supportive semester. Our organic and dynamic discussions, readings, explorations will surely carry over into so many aspects even a month from now as some of us teach new semester classes and most of us take more TCR classes. It has been a trip.


  1. Dear Joseph,

    Technology equals hard fun, how true! I also agree that there are times when I just want the system to work without significant effort on my part. One way of defining a successful system is one where the most efficiency is achieved through the least amount of effort. This is not always true as there are processes that require an effort to ‘work’ a system for educational purposes, however, in our case that is not the goal. Efficient inaction through easy connectivity has been the goal and despite some moments of technological challenges the course has been successful. The goal now is to take the experiences of this term and apply it to our industry, whether that is education or business. In some respects educational institutions may have an advantage over business in supporting and advancing technological adoption as students are usually involved with the latest systems. The challenge I see is in the transference of their pursuits into industry as students entering the business world and run into a techno-challenged or resistant environment. Educators have a critical role in continuing students passion in technology, not as a separate entity, but as a component of life skills. Students, technology and society have a more integrated bond and influence than we may have realized.

  2. Joe and Debbie, I appreciate the self-reflection in these posts. Joe, I believe it was you early in the semester who wondered whether anyone else applies the reading to their own classes. I'm glad that we've moved even further, to applying it to our experiences in this class, too.

    For my part, I empathize about learning new technology. I wonder whether we'll stabilize within the next few decades: one (primary) software program for each application we need. Given the past few decades, I doubt it, but part of me kind of hopes for it. Still, learning new things keeps the brain young, I suppose, so keeping up with technology isn't the worst thing on earth. And you're right: its benefits, like the elimination of the card catalog, are worth the new learning.

    I just wonder what it will do to the already problematic social issue of ageism. In most fields, it is difficult keep up on the newest technology. And I believe there is a real danger of labeling older people as "techno dinosaurs" if we change the technology too often. Heck, I'm not much older than my students, but I'm already teaching them different graphic design software than what I used when I was their age. I worry that it's too easy to stagnate, which could easily exacerbate the ageism issue. Anyway, just a thought.

    Thanks for the great semester!