For the best teachers, teaching with technology takes time. At first there’s the challenge of choosing equipment, learning software, redesigning courses, and building new protocols for lectures, projects, reading lists, exercises, quizzes, feedback routines, and course administration. This work for the new era must somehow be carried out on top of continuing to teach current courses via proven means. The consequences of each innovation must be carefully measured against the successes of the old. Most of us look forward to that date in the not-so-distant future when the workload will return to normal, when the new-era course is stable.
The good news is that in most disciplines, when teaching a course with technology for the second time, it is possible to return to or surpass pre-technology levels of success with reduced effort. Much as it is possible to achieve a “threshold level” of success with students when teaching with a textbook (versus relying exclusively upon lectures), teaching to a threshold level will often take less time when computer-enabled segments are available.
The bad news is that software programs mastered last year are often upstaged by new products, new time-consuming “re-learning” needs. Technology makes it easier for us to respond to students individually, even between classes and after the course is over. Technology gives access to more course materials, more visiting lecturers, more simulations, and more powerful indexing and search protocols. More options take more time.
We are a profession with a strong conscience and a social imperative to do the best we can with the talent of an emerging generation. If more time is to be committed to evaluating more materials, providing more individual attention, and keeping up to date, where can some time be gained through the wonders of technology? In this column I would like to initiate a list of timesaving ideas. If you will e-mail other ideas to me, I’ll devote a second column to your suggestions.
To the extent that some of these ideas are working for each of us, we can capture a portion of the time necessary to take fuller advantage of Internet-enabled course components.