Session A6: The Impact of Ubiquitous (or not so ubiquitous) Computing on Faculty and Students
Will Hochman (Southern Connecticut State University), Sarah Spring (Texas A&M University), Jim Kalmbach (Illinois State University)
Being the first panel of the first day of the conference, I had high hopes for an engaging and thought-provoking set of papers. I wasn’t disappointed, and I definitely was given food for thought.
The first paper was given by Will Hochman from Southern Connecticut State University entitled “Technologizing Pedagogy: How FY Writing Curriculum is Created by Electrons.” Hochman argued that technology is pedagogy and as such we as academics need to establish a curriculum across the university that reflect this, to create what he called a Digital Academia. One of the steps he advocated taking to achieve this goal was to incorporate portfolio pedagogy. Hochman feels strongly that showing students how to make electronic portfolios of their work is a key step to helping them form online identities that can be transported beyond school into the real world. He concedes that there are potential concerns to creating a Digital Academia; however, Hochman believes that online literacy is integral to literacy itself, and that we need to do more across-curriculum development with a technology emphasis, making sure that our pedagogy drives the technology and not the other way around.
The second paper was entitled “Computers, Tools and Instruments: Academic Dependence on Machine Terminology and its Effect on Student Perceptions of Computer Classroom” and was presented by Sarah Spring from Texas A&M University. Spring’s main argument was that if we wish to have our students think critically about their own computer use, we need to help them go beyond thinking of the computer as a mere tool. One place to begin is to challenge the language that both we and our students use to talk about computers. In an analysis of her student’s papers and in-class conversations, Spring saw students repeatedly use tool metaphors to talk about computers; in the scholarship about computers and writing, Spring again repeatedly saw scholars refer to those who create computer-mediated texts as ‘engineers’ and ‘designers’. For Spring, if we want to help our students have a deeper and more critical understanding about computers we must first challenge the very way we think and talk about computers.
Jim Kalmbach from Illinois State University presented the third paper of the session: “Ubiquitous Computing and the Perils of Early Adoption.” In 1985, Illinois State University (ISU) was the first university to have all computer classrooms in their first year writing program. Now, some 20 years later, these classrooms were in desperate need of renovation, and Kalmbach talked about the practical problems he encountered in bringing these classrooms up to date. Aside from the financial costs and funding difficulties associated with the renovation, Kalmbach said that one of the biggest source of problems stemmed from the physical design of the classrooms. When first build, the infrastructure of the room was designed to support both the pedagogical trends and the electrical needs of the time. In the present time, however, these trends and needs have changed, and yet the infrastructure still remains. Kalmbach closed with some lessons he learned from the whole process: you need to have a good association with the Dean; it takes a village to redo a computer room; and be careful not to design a computer classroom around a pedagogy that cannot be changed.
As I reflect on this panel, what I learned from these three presenters is that as we continue to grow in our use and exploration of how to use technology to teach and to engage our students, we need to be mindful of how this use develops, from the curriculum that we adopt, to the physical spaces that we design, to even the very language that we use to think about and talk about technology.