Sunday, October 26, 2008

Learning as we go...

Much of this week's reading focused on the results of surveys and research regarding unfolding trends in the use and preferences of use of IT by students - in both their academic and personal lives.  
The results of these studies indicate that students seem to want to delineate between the use of IM and other typically personal tools, and internet searches, video games, and simulations when accessing IT for academic purposes.  However, this must not be thought to be the expression of all, nor can it be considered the final say, or even a definitive trend.  Further, professors will need to be mindful of the individual needs of their students, considering those on the leading edge as well as those on the trailing edge of technology awareness, comfort, and use.  
Expecting students from all backgrounds to be equally prepared to jump in at the same level of readiness and participation seems akin to expecting English Language Learners to perform at the level of proficient or advanced on spring standards tests before they have mastered the English language.  Without exposure, support, and the time necessary to master the basics, it would be an unreasonable expectation.
Professors need to help in the process of discernment about what is and is not cutting edge - and even essential - in the realm of technology.  Many tools initially thought helpful, key, and important, are quickly relegated to the non-essential.  We have witnessed this as SAKAI, a year one necessity for cohort five, was replaced by moodle overnight.  Will moodle soon be found obsolete?
One of the most interesting facets of the research outlined in this week's readings revealed that respondents seem to want (and need) a balance between the use of technology and the ability to interface with their colleagues and professors.  While most of those surveyed appreciate using IT in their academic and personal lives, nearly 60% indicated their preference for a moderate amount in their courses.  This is supported by comments regarding the importance of "face time" in student retention and sense of inclusion and integration in the learning environment.  In small measure this is evidenced in the students on my campus that seek human interaction from adults in both academic and human interchanges.  

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