As I embark upon this voyage towards the land of digital learning, I am struck by the irony that I am composing my maiden blog article: What an unlikely protagonist for an adventure piloting the use of innovative technologies in the classroom.
Fortunately for us, the Digital Union wisely provides the worthiest of guides, ready at a moment’s notice to support faculty in navigating the treacherous waters of digital learning.
Why the foray into uncharted territory and why so apprehensive a traveler? For me, the answer is twofold.
First, I am vintage “mid-century” and, as such, am routinely mocked by my teenage/ 20-something children who marvel that I have yet to master the intricate workings of the remote control. (Tangent: When I was a child, I WAS my father’s remote control.) When I do brave the object of mention, apparently I wield it like a light-saber, two-handed, arms extended, swooshing through the air in the hopes of slaying my target. Even thus-armed, I am not quite sure of my aim, having never mastered more than the modern version of 3 basic channels: MSNBC, TCM, and HGTV. Hardly a cutting-edge soul.
And while many professors are far more proficient with their tech toys, perhaps there are many who would share my second aversion, as it stems from a passion likely inherent to the job: The wish to wade slowly through seas of knowledge, setting one’s own course, free from the myriad of distractions presented by the everyday world. With technology changing so rapidly and the expectation of immediate gratification so intense, I dread the creation of an impersonal and automated educational Matrix. Perhaps the old-world, Socratic Method is slated to become an anachronism? I truly fear that human interaction and time to engage deeply is quickly becoming a relic of the past.
Thus it is with some trepidation that I begin my Impact Grant journey. My episodes* in this blog will tell the story of our adventures. Accompanied by a far more skillful (and thankfully fun) crew of colleagues, I endeavor to bridge the best of both worlds. Although at times hopelessly overwhelmed, I am discovering a growing sense of wonder: I’m traversing a digital candy store of sorts, surrounded by a universe of possibilities that, once upon a time, captured my adolescent imagination, steeped as it was in the prose of Asimov and Vonnegut. The latter provided a steady diet of irreverence, fueling the venture into the former. Precisely the attributes needed.
Could it be that this terrain isn’t so new to my generation, but rather a manifestation of our highest aspirations? (Tangent: Given all the innovations of smart phones, I can’t possibly be alone in grieving the end of the flip-phone, the earthly incarnation of our Star Trek dreams. “Dear Johnny: Do hear our plea!”)
And so the stage is set for a hero’s journey, unlikely me and my able band of adventurers, boldly going where no middle-aged Mom has gone before. Destination: The brave new world of e-textbooks.*The first in a series following the (mis)adventures of a College Of Public Health Impact Grant Team as they navigate the universe of digital learning technology. Mission: To Pilot a dynamic and engaging Introduction to Global Public Health e-textbook embedded within an innovative, student-centered teaching model for the 21st century.