11.0317 teaching skills; forced IT refused

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Thu, 2 Oct 1997 21:22:23 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 317.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

[1] From: Hope Greenberg <hope.greenberg@uvm.edu> (57)
Subject: Re: 11.0286 tools? infrastructure?

[2] From: Hope Greenberg <hope.greenberg@uvm.edu> (125)
Subject: Re: 11.0286 tools? infrastructure?

Date: Thu, 02 Oct 1997 15:14:00 -0400
From: Hope Greenberg <hope.greenberg@uvm.edu>
Subject: Re: 11.0286 tools? infrastructure?

Willard posed a question on 9/23, a lifetime ago on this forum, but one
that I'd like to address anyway. The question was:

> It seems to me that we can usefully divide what we teach into two
> categories: the "core" skills, . . .and the more specialised ones. If we
> do that, what falls under which category? Just for purposes of argument,
> I offer this list:

> ----------------------------------------------------
> basic computing concepts spreadsheets
> wordprocessing database management
> e-communications text-analysis
> e-publishing (WWW, HTML &c.) text-encoding
> imaging (intro only)
> bibliographic management

I'd like to approach the topics from a slightly different angle by
focusing not on the applications but on the scholarly uses. Here's my

0) Basics: File management in a networked world (OS's come and go but so
far file management remains a fairly constant, and crucial to
understand, task)

1) Communication: e-mail, listservs, newsgroups, WOOs etc.

2) Writing: word processing/web publishing (they are nearly the same and
will get even closer), bibliographic management, text encoding, imaging,
video and audio capture

3) Research: text analysis, online search strategies

4) Scholarship: (that is, using and producing knowledge bases)
text-encoding, text-analysis, database management, spreadsheets,
textbase management.

And if pressed I would probably break this down even more by listing the
top few things one should know on any of the above topics. For example,
in writing I'd list things like:
- know how to set and use tabs and indents
- know the difference between default, document, and paragraph
- understand styles (which makes text encoding a heck of a lot easier,
- understand the difference between paper-destined text, electronic
text, and machine readable text

So, my focus is first on the scholarly pursuit, and then on the
applications that can be used in that pursuit. Along with that I would
emphasize the general concepts behind the software over the actual
nitty-gritty workings.

I stress this because I've seen too many people, faculty and students
alike, use a word processor like a typewriter, avoid spreadsheets
because they are "just for number-crunching," and jump through all kinds
of unnecessary hoops when a database program would easily help. In
addition, I've seen so many people learn how to do a task in one
specific version of a specific application, but because they don't
understand what they are doing and why, can't transfer that knowledge to
the next version or application they use.

Also, by putting the emphasis on task instead of tool I hope we can make
computing technology more sensibly palatable. It is, after all, no
longer very new.

- Hope

Hope Greenberg
University of Vermont

Date: Thu, 02 Oct 1997 15:49:59 -0400
From: Hope Greenberg <hope.greenberg@uvm.edu>
Subject: Re: 11.0286 tools? infrastructure?

In reply to Willard's comments:
>". . .a group that calls itself the Microsoft Scholars met to discuss the use of
> technology in higher education. They informed the leader of the meeting "that there
> are still people in the academy who think that technology does not need to be
> incorporated into their daily activities (i.e., teaching, research, service or
> administration)."

I offer the following article, not so much for the fact that it supports
the aforementioned conclusion, but for what is, to me, a more important
point: the writer of the article and the people quoted don't seem to
have a very clear idea of what information or classroom technology is.
We all have technology in the classroom that impacts how we teach: we
have fixed seating or tablet chairs or tables, chalkboards, and
predetermined class sizes. Nor does anyone in the article mention that
computers do not necessarily mean less face-to-face or that lectures
necessarily mean more communication.

>From the current Chronicle of Higher Ed...

Canadian University Promises It Won't Require
Professors to Use Technology


Professors at York University walked picket lines
earlier this year with posters reading "Televisions
don't teach, people do" and "Clone sheep, not Internet
courses." In what may have been a first, new
instructional technology was a major issue in a faculty
strike -- one that lasted 55 days.

Union leaders at the Toronto university claim victory on
the issue, one of several at the heart of the strike.
Among the technology-related provisions in the final
version of the contract is an unusual promise from the
administration: Professors will not be forced to use
technology in their classrooms or to deliver courses
over the Internet.

The contract says decisions to use technology for
enhancing classroom sessions or for delivering courses
to remote locations using videoconferencing "shall be
consistent with the pedagogic and academic judgments and
principles of the faculty member employee as to the
appropriateness of the use of technology in the
circumstances." It adds: "Normally, a faculty member
will not be required to convert a course without his or
her agreement."

David Clipsham is chairman of the faculty union, the
York University Faculty Association. He says that
forcing the university to accept the restrictions was a
pre-emptive move stemming from "fears that the
administration was moving too fast into technology that
no one understood."

The union was deeply concerned about protecting the
autonomy of professors. "When you put your course on a
Web site," says David Noble, a history professor, "you
are essentially giving up control of the course."
Fitting a course to a Web site constructed to someone
else's specifications can interfere with a professor's
plan for the course, he says.

Another professor involved in the strike simply doesn't
believe in using technology in the classroom. "I have no
interest in using the Web for my teaching," says Janice
Newson, an associate professor of sociology. "My own
judgment on this is that I am not persuaded that this is
the best way to go."

She says multimedia software created for classroom use
has several drawbacks: It reduces face-to-face contact;
it can discourage critical thinking by students who move
quickly among screens full of information; and its bugs
and glitches can waste valuable teaching time.

Both Dr. Newson and Dr. Noble say they are worried about
being replaced by their own high-tech creations. Dr.
Noble says administrators at York and other universities
may one day use World-Wide Web sites or video-taped
lectures to cut back on faculty staffing. "Whatever the
rhetoric of the institution," he says, "the unspoken
agenda is to eliminate direct labor."

Paula H. O'Reilly, York's director of academic and staff
relations, represented the university in negotiations
during the strike. She says the institution had no
intention of forcing professors to use technology
anyway. Most of the decisions about whether to use
technology are made at the departmental level or by
individual professors, she says. "We don't see ourselves
as controlling technology."

She says the administration agrees that, if faculty
members don't believe in using technology in education,
"their right to oppose it needs to be respected."

During the contract negotiations, she says,
administrators wanted to make sure that any promises
they made were flexible enough to accommodate
unanticipated changes in technology.

The new contract also calls for the creation of a "Joint
Subcommittee on the Impact of Technology." The panel
will consider a variety of issues, including providing
adequate training and support to professors who want to
use high-tech tools; setting guidelines for purchasing
and developing packaged courses and distance-learning
courses; and long-term goals for technology use.

Perry M. Robinson, deputy director of the
higher-education department at the American Federation
of Teachers, says technology issues are becoming more
and more important in contract negotiations. "There are
quite a number of issues now with distance learning," he
says. "I think it will increasingly become important."

Mr. Robinson says that union contracts at a few colleges
already address technology issues. Many of those
contracts specify class size or compensation policies
for distance-education courses -- for instance, at the
Chabot-Las Positas Community College District in
California, Glen Oaks Community College in Michigan, and
Salem Community College in New Jersey.

Promising not to force technology on professors is more
unusual, he says. That's because few cases, if any, have
surfaced in which professors are being forced to use
technology, he says.

But Dr. Noble, whose specialty is the history of
technology, says he sees a trend -- the "commoditization
of instruction." As universities find ways to package
teaching in digital form, he says, professors could be
phased out, just as some assembly-line workers have been
replaced by robots. He points to a new program at the
University of California at Los Angeles, where
administrators have promised that every class in its
main undergraduate college will have a Web page. That's
a sign, he says, that faculty members at other colleges
need to take a fresh look at their contracts. "We worked
very hard to protect ourselves," he says.

Copyright (c) 1997 by The Chronicle of Higher Education

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