I keep running into the same wall from different directions. It hardly seems fair, but there it is.
These information and communication technologies really do amount to the difference in degree that’s also a difference in kind. There’s just no way to pretend they aren’t disruptive, a hassle, a pain, and perhaps even worse. ICT may cripple an entire generation’s ability to focus on, and respond to, a sustained argument. I haven’t seen that effect myself, and I started teaching back in 1982, but others have and I take their reports seriously. On the other end of the anxiety continuum, it may be that we cannot rely on any of the organizational structures, roles, certifications, and comfort zones that we depend on from day to day to define the scope, nature, and value of our work–and often to define our identities as well. Further, it’s almost certainly the case that the effective integration of ICT into teaching and learning will also disrupt signature pedagogies (the term paper, the lab report, etc.), course design and course organization (what is a semester? what is a syllabus? what is a course of study?), even the very roles of student and teacher. Will we lose valuable things along the way? Probably. Every new phase of human development combines loss and gain. Is it zero sum, or a losing proposition? Or a net gain? I know what I think, but I don’t know.
At the same time, ICT has the potential to take us into a deeper and (paradoxically) a broader, more inclusive experience of what we value most in education, in community, in the spread of social justice across the world. In other words, the massive disruption we are experiencing–and it’s just beginning, believe me–is also potentially a time of great reformation, of finding or making more authentic means of getting to what we truly value. Or at least what we say we truly value.
How can it be both? How can this change be both a disruptive difference in kind from familiar practices–in some cases, cherished practices–and a return to core values and essential commitments in our vocation as educators?
I don’t know. But I’ll keep thinking about it. And I’m committed to some significant part of that thought being aloud, in this public space, though part of me shrinks away, knowing that I’ll get much of it wrong, again and again. Yet I ask that openness of my students, and fair is fair–to return to the beginning of this post.