More than powerpoints

In “The Manifesto,” students explain that teaching digital humanities to undergraduates is important because “it gives insight not only into the humanities but also into how the onset of technology has changed our world, and how we can change with it.” This explanation clearly defines digital humanities as an area of study that helps scholars understand the humanities more fully. Their statement further argues that technology has changed our world and asks how we can change with it. I think this question of change is crucial to the area of digital humanities. Especially within the older generation of scholars, dissemination of knowledge and scholarly collaboration has to change with technology.
Right now, there is a disconnect between technology available and what technology is actually used in the classroom. Even at Emory, there are professors who do not accept soft copies of papers, use blackboard or e-mail to post grades, or know what a learnlink conference is. I can’t imagine the time and money that would be saved if I could submit all my papers online. How helpful would it be if every class had a conference where students could easily post homework questions or discuss projects rather than only communicating with people in the class whose e-mail addresses you already know? Increased use of the readily available technology at Emory would not only make life more convenient, but would increase collaboration and overall learning.
If all professors knew how to use the basic technology and utilized it properly, opportunities would open for classrooms to integrate even more advanced technology. Instead of paying an author to come speak, why not set up a Skype date with the author where students can ask questions and simultaneously record it to show to future classes? For example, last year in wind ensemble, we were able to Skype with the composer of one of our pieces who gave comments on our playing. Without even leaving her house, she was able to make sure that her work of art was played the way she intended it to be played. What if we used blogs with more than just students in our class at Emory? If we collaborated with students from different universities on similar subjects, we as a scholarly community could learn much more than we currently do with the 30 people sitting in the physical classroom.
The internet can be used for so much more than digital textbooks and other ways to present information. As a generation, we should work harder to use the technology in place to increase our knowledge base, rather than simply integrate powerpoints into traditional lectures and continue to learn and grow with new technology.

7 Comments on “More than powerpoints”

  1. Rafid Kasir says:

    The positives of technology are significant, but it is also important to recognize the sacrifice that comes with new technology. Does listening to a wind ensemble on skype (or even tv) really capture the experience?

    • Lisa Park says:

      In that example, of course there’s nothing quite like being there in person, but finding that opportunity is much more difficult. The Skype call saved on the issue of traveling, time, and convenience for the parties involved. I will concede that one of the common complaints about technology is the distancing effect it has, though.

    • Brian Croxall says:

      I’ll agree with Lisa that there’s not much that can compare to actually hearing from the composer for getting his or her intent (although the question of how much we care about his or her intent is something that we will bracket until the end of the semester). And I think you might have misread Jessica’s post, Rafi, since the experience isn’t musical but one of communication. At the same time, you’re quite right to bring up the sacrifices inherent in using technology, and I can tell you that that is exactly what faculty members who don’t embrace every new development would cite in responding to Jessica.

  2. avdeshp says:

    I agree that there are many conveniences to adopting technology in the classroom. We must also acknowledge that many professors that are currently holding chairs come from a different era. These scholars may find change difficult. Furthermore we must also recognize that there is technological abuse. Many times there is what is Dr. Paul R. Ehrlich called in a lecture “A technological imperative.” Dr. Ehrlich spoke of feeling the pressure to use technology just because it’s there. There are many instances where things can be much easily accomplished using traditional methods. Furthermore there is the issue of distraction. Taking notes on a laptop may sound like a good idea until you see that everyone is actually on Facebook. How would you go about drawing the line as to how much technology should be integrated into the classroom?

  3. Jessica Coons says:

    Change is always difficult for people who have been doing a certain thing in a certain way for a period of time. Just because we have always done something one way doesn’t mean that it is the right way to do it. The university can be a very isolating community–especially when professors have been teaching the same course in the same way for decades. There are advances or new ways of learning things in all subjects. I’m suggesting that professors and scholars use technology in a collaborative way to increase knowledge rather than just find a new way to present it (i.e. moving from an overhead projector to a powerpoint presentation).
    Facebook is obviously a distraction when students have laptops open in class. Typing your notes rather than writing them is just another example of doing the same thing a different way. Typing notes does not help us learn anything new, so I wouldn’t consider the distraction of facebook to be a relevant argument against the type of technology I am advocating.

    • Brian Croxall says:

      The obvious retort here is to ask why students “who have been doing a certain thing in a certain way for a period of time” (read, submitting things via email) should not expect to change when introduced into an environment such as the American university. An environment, I’ll add, that is modeled on monasteries. Universities are conservative by nature, and that is one of their great strengths and liabilities.

      I’m more interested to know, Jessica, how you think being able to turn in papers via email helps you understand the humanities better. Is that what the students at Bloomsburg are arguing?

  4. mabenn says:

    The integration with technology has been there increasingly in my time here at Emory. In my poetry class over the summer, we actually did have the author Skype in with us and give his interpretations of his work and some advice on writing poetry and things. It was pretty cool.

    I’ve also had teacher’s with strict no computer policies in class. I’m not hard of learning either way. I prefer to take notes on my computer because I can type much faster than I write, note taking even in shorthand has never been a skill of mine. When there is an absence of a computer, I pay greater attention to lecture to maintain certain points, but I end up forgetting more of them as I am unable to keep up with putting everything down. And when it comes to Powerpoints, my only pet peeve is READING THE WORDS OFF THE POWERPOINT