Rethinking The Academy:

How Do We Start?

We start in medias res, "in the middle of things," as we always do in the classroom. We must start by asking what we wish to accomplish with our teaching, a question that must be independent of what technologies we have to hand. Then we must analyze what tools are indeed available at a given institution or department, allowing us to judge what opportunities we might have for the use of these new technologies.

Then, and only then, can we put these two considerations together and ask ourselves what technologies will enhance our teaching. For some of us, for a number of reasons including training and access to technology, the answer might well be that our teaching is effective enough without necessarily adding the use of the Internet or of Connect or, for that matter, of video and sound equipment to our pedagogy. In these cases, we might not want to use technologies or to use technologies primarily for vocational reasons - we must ask ourselves what our students need to know before they leave the academy and enter the job market.

For others of us, those who love these new technologies, and can't wait to add these new-fangled tricks to our teaching trade, we must always ask "who benefits?" Can we see a real reason to add a web class to our catalog, or is doing so primarily for our benefit and not for our students? What we will gain from teaching HTML or e-mail?

On the other hand, those of us who are frightened or unsure of these new tools should begin learning them. It may be enough to start small and open an e-mail account rather than relying on snail mail, or to try using a listserv rather than always depending on an in-class voice discussion.

Certainly, too, we must deal with access issues: in order to be fair to our students, we must also find out what hardware and software are available to them so that we can reasonably expect them to complete assignments within a given period.

And we should begin working with others in our discipline who are helping to set standards for compensation for computer-related work in the profession.

How to Navigate This Essay Without Getting Lost

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Last Modified: August 2, 1996

Copyright 1996 by Keith Dorwick