“The digital classroom.” Most people have probably heard this phrase before, but what does it even mean? I guess a lot of people think of those commercials for The University of Phoenix Online. But can’t programs like BlackBoard, which are meant to make learning in the physical classroom easier, become “digital classrooms” of their own?
That’s certainly what Sharon Marshall seems to think. What I appreciated about Marshall’s Chronicle article though, is that, though she expresses her concerns regarding the over-use of programs like BlackBoard, she doesn’t go totally anti-digital either. She’s just trying to find a balance between using technology to make things easier for students and really having engaging face-to-face discussions in the classroom.
I’d be interested to know whether the best balance changes depending on the discipline, but personally I like it best when professors use BlackBoard as a reference site. I’m not too fond of public response papers; although I’ve enjoyed them in the past, I think it puts a lot of unnecessary pressure (time pressure, peer pressure, ideas pressure…so many kinds of pressure!) on people. Especially people who aren’t very confident writers. I like it best when BlackBoard is a place where I can go to find the syllabus, the readings…all those paper things you might lose or that you’d have to go searching for yourself otherwise (as if it doesn’t already take enough time just printing everything you have to read each week!).
So, despite the fact that I’m a blogger, I’m obviously not as into technology as some other people (as you guys have probably noticed by my previous post on digital books and e-readers). Which is why this new invention that I stumbled upon has got me a little freaked out. Maybe it’s because I recently became obsessed with the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series and I’m afraid this is the first step on the road to cylons…but doesn’t the fact that you can now rent a robot to go to your meetings for you freak anyone else out? I mean, just a few months ago this was a joke! It was something crazy Sheldon made up on Big Bang Theory, not a real thing. If we can go to meetings using a robot, why can’t we go to class that way? Or why can’t you take your long distance boyfriend of girlfriend out on a Valentine’s Day date via robo-cam? And have you noticed how cute the robot’s eyes are? We’re going to end up like the people in Wall-E if we’re not careful.
Anyway, if we’re trying to strike a balance in the “digital classroom,” maybe we should be doing the same in the “digital workplace.” Why is VideoChat suddenly not good enough for attending meetings? Is a little plastic head on a stick really that much better? I think it’s just a little creepier.
But maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m secretly from another generation (sometimes I do feel like I’m a 50-year-old woman on the inside). Maybe everyone’s personal technological balance is different. I’m just not sure I’d want to be in class…or on a date…or in a meeting…with a robot. Somehow, I’d even rather bring my laptop and see your face on that screen.
Well, Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Let's all try to enjoy one of the holidays that doesn’t fall during December madness.