I am enjoying reading this book, and repeatedly find myself going off on tangential trips down memory lane.  Here are a few reflections based on the prompts provided.

  • What do you find surprising in these chapters? Why?

One thing I found surprising as I read through these chapters is the degree to which I take technology for granted.  Admittedly, this shouldn’t be surprising, and certainly it is Weller’s intent to point out such, but it is so easy to work with the tools we currently have, it is easy to forget that these tools didn’t exist not so long ago. For example, he mentions adopting CMC at OU (Weller, 2020, p.22) the ease of use and “back-end systems [such as ] automatic allocation of students into groups” and “threading structure of conversations” being their main advantages. It is such a simple thing that I use every day, and yet of course, it had to come from somewhere, and indeed, an ed tech world existed in which it didn’t.  It makes me wonder how much of a dinosaur I’m going to feel like in 25 more years, given the anticipated trajectory of future technology.

  • What one to two arguments presented do you find compelling, challenging, or problematic? Why?

Weller states in the CMC chapter that “universities were designed… to foreground effective communication” where “students were brought together in one physical location…within an architecture that offers students multiple spaces … and opportunities for informal discussion” (2020, p.24) and that facilitating communication needs to be more actively structured in other non-campus based models of education.  I find this idea interesting for two reasons; first of all, personally, I find the planning and facilitating of inter-class communication one of the most difficult aspects of teaching an online course.  The conversations that could naturally occur, or be aided (and in many cases, mandated, in an English language course) by physical proximity with in-class group discussions are much less easily developed in an online environment. They must be much more carefully structured, and often restructured to ‘iron out the kinks’ when discussion doesn’t evolve as intended. Secondly, I have watched these “physical spaces designed for informal communication” on campus slowly erode into of wifi-connected islands amidst the seas of strangers, where students sit immediately next to one another, with barely a glance up from their devices.  The hot-spotting of wifi has created cold-feeling spaces devoid of communication with those most immediately nearby.  I wonder if future students will eventually baulk at this trend, and demand wifi-and device-free spaces where face-to-face communication is preferred and required, where students may meet others from classes and departments outside their own, and carry out the ‘old school’ activities like playing board games or just sitting and chatting.  I think this utopian desire demonstrates my disillusionment with the sort of darker sides of technology that Weller alludes are possible, and again reflects that I am, in fact, a dinosaur.

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Edmonton, AB: Au Press, Athabasca University.