Ed Tech People Are on the Side of the Professors

Did you read Dan Berrett's piece "In for Nasty Weather" in yesterday's (5/16) edition of IHE?

May 16, 2011

Did you read Dan Berrett's piece "In for Nasty Weather" in yesterday's (5/16) edition of IHE?

I'm sure that this article will be discussed, debated and reflected upon widely on campus. What Berrett did not touch much upon is technology, and the role of technology in changing both teaching and learning at our institutions, and in altering how faculty do their jobs. We can, and should, debate where technology has been a force for good or ill in academic life and learning. Beyond this debate, however, I'd like to modestly offer to speak for my tribe of educational technology professionals in affirming to our faculty colleagues that we are on their side.

If you work for a long enough time at the intersection of learning and technology, you figure out a few things about faculty:

  • The overwhelming proportion of variation in a courses quality is explained by faculty performance. Great teachers make great courses. Period. We can partner with faculty to provide technology platforms and tools that help large lecture classes feel and act like smaller seminar classes, or we can provide mechanisms to allow for hybrid or online courses, but the course quality always comes down to the faculty.
  • The job of people who work in educational technology is to partner with our faculty colleagues to help them do more of what they love best about teaching, and do less of what they do not like or are not good at. Usually, this means taking care of the logistics and the infrastructure of courses. Always this process involves understanding the teaching and learning goals and objectives of the faculty member, and trying to offer options (sometimes via technology, sometimes not) so they can best meet these goals.
  • The vast and overwhelming majority of the faculty that we work with as educational technologists are people who are completely and totally dedicated to the art and science of teaching. Perhaps we see a self-selected group, as faculty who are not focused on teaching will not seek our services out (or join our new programs). No matter, as we always have more potential faculty partners to work on course development and design then we have hours in the day. Courses with robust technology elements, or those delivered taking advantage of hybrid tools, will often be the best courses as these technology inputs are a signal for faculty engagement and passion. In other words, these courses would be great without us.
  • Educational technologists are faculty caste blind. We equally love and will partner with part-time adjuncts and full-professors, teaching grad students and teaching provosts. For us, the coin of the realm is a passion to educate and a willingness to invest time and energy with us ed tech folks as colleagues. Adjuncts may be disadvantaged by the lack of office space, but they should not be disadvantaged by a lack of ed tech collaboration and assistance.
  • While we love working with adjuncts, visitors, and people just starting their teaching careers - some of our best partners are our tenured colleagues. I've seen time and time again that people with tenure are willing to take more risks in their teaching, and devote more time to the craft. In many places, the toughest time to innovate and experiment in the classroom is when folks are on the tenure track. Teaching innovation and experimentation is time and energy consuming, and comes with downside risks. Tenured faculty have the advantages of wisdom and experience, and are often in the best position to bring new practices and methods to courses (particularly large courses), and then spread these innovations to other courses.
  • Good teaching is never commoditized, and the best teachers involve their students in their research and writing. One of the best reasons for an institution to invest in faculty research is that those faculty who are creating knowledge are usually the best teachers. We need to involve more faculty in the roles of knowledge creators, and work towards moving more of our courses into a mode of student-faculty synthesis and discovery.

Ed tech folks, what points would you add to (or dispute), from this list?

Faculty, how can us folks who work on the educational technology side better partner with you so that being a professor remains "one of the all-time great jobs"?


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