As an educator there is nothing more important to me than transmitting knowledge. The name of the game, essentially, is a transfer of information between individuals. This is not simply a one-way street as I often learn a great deal from my students. The general flow, however, is one from the teacher to the students. Anything that aids that flow is helpful… and anything that hinders it is counter-productive.
Great technologies have aided that flow. The printing press enabled the creation of affordable books for the masses. These books transmitted knowledge and thus aided education. While book costs are sometimes high it would be hard to say that they don’t aid a transfer of information. The internet too, despite its faults, has enabled a great transmission of information between people. This also aided education. There are, however, some technologies that have hindered education.
I employ some rather helpful softwares to manage a course with near 1000 students every semester. This is a tricky business, large classes. It would be easy, for instance, to misplace 1 student’s paper out of the 1000 you might try to fit into your briefcase (likely an impossible task). These softwares aggregate assignments in digital form, allow for review, comment, and grading under the same window, provide instantaneous grading for multiple choice testing, and a number of other helpful features too numerous to mention here. This certainly aids education.
What doesn’t aid education is making these types of softwares difficult to use. This isn’t always the software’s fault but often a complicated infrastructure of databases involving many systems and people. During the past six months I have been fighting a daily battle to obtain basic information in order to set up these softwares for the management of my class. Does this aid in the transfer of information? No. It does not. To understand why I would ask you to guess what I haven’t been doing. I haven’t been planning class activities, writing lesson plans, training teaching assistants, reading each and every helpful evaluative feedback comment, and a large number of other things. In short: I haven’t been focused on teaching because I’ve been forced to focus on technology… and that’s a shame.