I’ve heard a few students tell me that their professors don’t use Blackboard in the classroom, that they are “just good teachers.” I always take good to mean dynamic and interesting and challenging. My second thought is “Why does anyone think that Blackboard is an in-class tool?”
Of course, you can illustrate to students how to navigate its features for submitting an assignment in the digital drop box, or use a Links page as a convenient way to get to the Web sites you want to visit in class, but the primary functions of Blackboard are for out-of-class use: delivering documents and assignments, communicating with Announcements or email, carrying on conversations on the Discussion Board or in one of the collaborative features. And one of students’ favorite features is the ability to check grades as the course progresses.
But what about the more general skepticism that teaching with technology is just a gimmick, and that it substitutes for substantive presentation of material? Here’s an old article from the Chronicle in PDF form that addresses what happens “When Good Technology Meets Bad Teaching.” Back in 2004, students surveyed responded that “faculty use technology poorly,” and I think we have to consider that most faculty have devised their own methods of incorporating the technology that is given to them, without proper consideration of whether a new instructional design is in order.
In addition to the infamous abuses of PowerPoints, students complain that faculty are unskilled with software as well as the mechanics of computers, projectors, and DVD players, wasting valuable “class time fumbling” through it all. Or they present material “unmoderated, or that seemed to have been tacked on to the syllabus as afterthoughts.” In 2007, would our students make the same complaints?
If I were writing a new version of this article, I think I would ask “What Happened to the Good Teaching after It Met Technology?” I think that faculty confronted with technology minus proper instruction on how to integrate it into their already good teaching, mistakenly think that it is supposed to replace some teaching elements, instead of enhancing them.
For example, take the Discussion Board feature in Blackboard. According to the cited report in the article, students will view them as required busy work if they are not incorporated into class discussions. Here’s a spot where work on Blackboard finds its way into the classroom, thereby elevating the significance of the posts out of class.
What students want from technology in the classroom is interactivity, more student-centered use of the equipment. That is the real challenge–using technology not for show and tell, but for a constructivist creation of knowledge. That’s not teaching with technology; that’s just teaching!