Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Running from Technology

Fear of technology is very real and present in academia. You can almost smell it. It’s the fear of having to keep up with the latest technology and the concern that as soon as faculty learn any new technology it will become outdated or fall into disuse. The huge challenge of trying to keep abreast of and skilled in these technologies can be intimidating. The reason many faculty don’t want to embrace new technologies is three-fold. First finding the time to learn these technologies can be difficult. Adding learning new technologies to an already full load of teaching, researching, publishing, committee meetings is a daunting task. Secondly, technology is changing at breakneck speed and what may be viable today may be a dinosaur tomorrow. This can foster a mindset of “sticking” with know entities. You’re probably acquainted with faculty members who refuse to give up their overhead projector, because whether they admit it or not moving to presentation software is out of their comfort zone. Third, for those who may be late comers to technology or feel technically challenged, why would anyone want to take the risk of looking “dumb” in front of peers or at worst their students? Aren’t they supposed to be “experts”?

The big question is; should faculty be responsible for the creation of all the educational multimedia they wish to utilize? Must they choose/learn the newest multimedia software, or know how to record, optimize, and upload that material? The truth is faculty do not need to have a PhD in Instructional Multimedia Technologies (IMT), or Instructional Design for Online Learning (IDOL) to integrate engaging, innovative and effective multimedia technologies in their curriculum. More and more universities are establishing centers dedicated to studying and implementing technology for instructors. These centers work with faculty to integrate appropriate technologies and multimedia into their curriculum so that they can focus on teaching, not the nuts and bolts of technology.

Faculty should remain the subject matter experts (SME) and be able to rely on a team to assist them with more advanced technical educational multimedia. While faculty must keep up with technologies that will find everyday use in education and the proper pedagogies associated with the intended venue, they shouldn’t be expected to be instructional multimedia experts. This is best left to SME’s in the field of Instructional design and multimedia. A best-case situation is one in which faculty members and Instructional Multimedia SME’s collaborate to create engaging, innovative and effective learning objects that utilize multimedia.

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