Faculty Friday: Using technology to think about information and life

This week, a colleague and I had the pleasure of sponsoring a day-long session about using tools to teach in the humanities. Very bright people from 4 countries were together looking at projects that either brought together content in a way that makes it easy to find or created tools that let people think about content in new ways.

At the end, we made a list of things to think about when using tools to access information and teach. Have a look and let me know what you think in the comments.

Nature of tools themselves

  • Can people create their own themes out of content? Does this help them to engage critically?

  • Some of the tools were more like beta versions. Can people use a weak tool to think about strengths and weaknesses of tools overall?

  • Can they extend this knowledge to a robust tool? Can they understand that even pretty things that work easily have limitations?

  • Can using tools teach them about the nature of tools themselves?

  • What are the benefits of comparing different tools that do similar tasks?

On using tools

  • Can the  approach a tool takes help people to compare or try in multiple ways of understanding information?

  • What happens when a tool makes something ambiguous?

  • Is there a “right time” to use tools? When is it a useful entry point?

  • What general things do people need to understand about tools to use them most effectively?

  • Do online tools extend the learning experience? Collaboratively? With the public? Does anybody actually read student blogs?

  • Does trying out tools help people be prepared to deal with a culture of change?

  • Is gamification a useful motivator?

  • What kinds of things do people need to know about assessing the quality of information sources now?

Questions for education as a field

  • Should the content be changed because of the tools? Does/should technology drive content?

  • Are we allowing technology to be transformative? Do we know what transformative means?

  • Should the process be changed because of the tools?

  • What are we giving up when we adopt new tools? Expertise?

  • Do these tools teach resilience? If tools are glitchy or hard to use, how do you allow for that in assigning grades?

  • How do you deal with “knowledge” meaning different things – some kept in books and journals, others in visualizations? What is canonical?

For teaching and learning, what are the opportunity costs of using these new technologies?

  • Is the extra overhead for teachers learning technology an impediment for learning?

  • Does it give up power from the instructor? Is this good? Bad? Both?

  • Does learning together model good learning practice or make faculty look inept? Faculty view vs. student view?

  • Is this different for students at different levels? Are freshmen different from graduate students in their acceptance of experimental tools/technologies/methods?

  • What is the cost of challenging the assumptions of learning? Will having new tools for understanding information make group education obsolete?

I’ll post a list of links to things we looked at soon.

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