Thursday, August 12, 2010

Technology in Higher Education?

Just came across these results from the annual Faculty Survey of Student Engagement as reported in the THE article "Students 'let down' by the academic Luddites." (Who makes up these titles?) The survey is web-based, conducted in the USA, and usually involves of the order 10,000 faculty members at 50 institutions or so. The shocking result: 84 % of faculty members say they don't use blogs and 3% don't even know what it is.


(In contrast to the THE article, the figure caption says they don't only not use blogs, but have never seen one. I have a hard time believing 84% have never seen a video game either, so I guess the caption is wrong. The only way you cannot ever have seen a blog in the year 2010 is if you don't use the internet altogether.)

I think the main reason that still few people in academia make use of the opportunities new technologies offer is that they simply don't know what it's good for, or don't know how to use them, or both.

20 comments:

Michael said...

I'm sure this is very field-dependent.

I gave an after-dinner talk to 200+ academics at a quantum information conference a couple of years ago. I asked how many knew what a blog was, and, so far as I could see, pretty much every hand in the room went up. I asked how many read blogs at least occasionally, and nearly every hand went up --- probably 80% or so. Most people in the audience said they read blogs regularly, and a surprisingly large fraction (maybe 10-20%) said they had personally tried blogging.

Michael Nielsen

Bee said...

Hi Michael,

Possibly. I am really surprised the fraction would be so large. I mean, nowadays every newspaper, and every magazine, and every second community website has a blog. Wondering if people just don't notice they're reading blogs? ;-) Best,

B.

Frank said...

Maybe these tools simply are not useful for teaching?

The presumption seems to be that because its new, its better and the only reason not to use it is ignorance or technophobia or nostalgia and the like.

Bee said...

I think the question here is not so much whether it's useful for teaching but more whether the teachers have any clue what use modern technology has for the science they're teaching. I mean blogs and wikis are the prime example of what you can do with really a minimum of effort to improve collaboration and communication.

Steven Colyer said...
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Steven Colyer said...

Ah Bee, you are only 1/4th through your working life. As one who is half (maybe a little more), I am more in tune with those far older than you, which include:

- A Yale Scientist Emeritus, who doesn't own a cell phone, and doesn't want to. Born in 1927, he's somehow managed to survive without modern "tech." His attitude is: "In those rare occurrences when I actually need a cell phone, I simple ask someone, and I haven't been refused yet!"

This is a funny post, I enjoy it. It reminds me of Chad Orzel's recent one regarding "people my age aren't hurt by the economy at all, we all have jobs" thing.

Ah, to be in one's young 30's and a yuppie again. Christ, we thought ourselves invincible, and immortal as well. Lovely age. Enjoy every moment.

Bee said...

My hurting back was just nicely reminding me of my mortality. I've seen people all ages losing their jobs, from their mid 20s to their 60s, and it's never nice. Wonder what people would say if you borrow their phone and then make a 1h call overseas, amounting to $100 on their bill, haha. I wasn't aware mobile phones still count as new technology. Watch that trailer and laugh :-). Best,

B.

Steven Colyer said...
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Steven Colyer said...

Your hurting back is indicative of leaning over a keyboard for most of the day, I reckon. The solution is simple: a 45-minute full body Swedish massage administered once a day, by Stefan of course. Shari Bellafonte has a great instructional video re same, and no she's not Swedish.

I did laugh at that vid for Wall Street 2, Bee, even though I think Oliver Stone unintentionally screwed up the American economy with Gekko's quote re-quoted in that vid by Michael Douglas (whom I do not blame).

Hey, I actually remember the FIRST cell phone I ever saw, it looked exactly like the one in that clip. It was the year 1991, I was standing behind some rich woman in a bank in a wealthy town, who whipped it out from her overly large purse and used it. Anyone remember the name of the first cell-phone manufacturer? Wasn't much different from a walkie-talkie, hmm?

Still waiting for the Dick Tracy "2-way" wrist watch. Any day now ....

Christine said...
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Christine said...

The shocking result: 84 % of faculty members say they don't use blogs and 3% don't even know what it is.

Well, I'm not shocked. As Michael Nielsen mentioned, this is field-dependent, I agree.

For the past 10 years or so, from observing colleagues (most of them researchers), they do not seem to navigate too much, except for getting papers, some specific information. When I first set up a blog in 2005, the whole astrophysics division where I graduated from had no idea of what I was talking about. As of 2010, just one or two of them have tried blogging, but as far as I can tell, they did not go too far with it.

Where I work now, most sites are blocked, so even if I wanted to, I cannot navigate too much away from certain pages. Good! :)

In fact, for the past couple of years, I have been trying to avoid navigating too much, and I wonder whether it is just me, or other people are realizing that too much connection is an unhealthy way of life? Not that I have been such a big internet user before, but more and more I have no time or interest for that. Nowadays I try to go to very specific sites for getting the information I want. My RSS feed has about 5 blogs, one of them, yours. I twit rarely. My only working blog now is an educational math blog, not much frequently updated, but much more accessed than my previous blogs. I'm much happier now with the contributions I can make to the kids. And more time to run with my german shorthaired pointer out in the fresh air, and to read my (real paper) books!

So I believe there is a question of the need for connection. As you have mentioned some time previously, as you are far from home and friends, you probably connect more than the average people. So you are probably much more acquainted with the new technologies out there than the "average user".

Finally, I agree that when the "average user" (= possibly a computer layman) navigate, he/she *might* be reading blogs without knowing it (there isn't a big difference between a blog and a common html page for a layman).

Best,
Christine

PS- Well, Steven Colyer may be right about the possible cause of your hurting back :) Too much computer.

Steven Colyer said...
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Steven Colyer said...

Too much computer.

Yup, but I'm blessed that way. I have to share my computer with 4-5 other people, so I only get 3 hours per day on it. Otherwise, I'd be fuul-blown carpal-tunnely addicted, for sure.

Some things in life, like computers and golf, are too much fun.

This is why Perimeter installed a weight room.

Christine said...

Some things in life, like computers and golf, are too much fun.

For me, computers are just useful. Sure, *very* useful.

Best,
Christine

PS- Golf? Well, I find it toooo boring. I'd rather run, bike or swim. Anyway "fun" is a question of opinion, of course...

Uncle Al said...

Which faculty is techologically illiterate? One can imagine broad swaths of university whose mission statements are in utter opposition to transistors and the Intertubes. Tolkein despised technology. Nobody visits the loo in Middle Earth (an unpleasant thought for barefoot hobbits - no plastic bags, either).

Imagine being in Fine Arts. Cord progression elegantly maps onto a toroid. Composition could shift from classical genius to contemporary aural insult to a cubicle, software, and a technician. (Hit only the black keys and it always sounds good. Flesh that out and there you are.)

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Well I read the article you highlighted, yet it didn’t enlighten me much past now knowing a lot of professors being disinterested as to remain unaware of the increased communication capability of the now not so new technologies. Then again, at least for the undergraduate level how many have ever being interested in working to have things better communicated. You know how it works, if you can do well despite their indifference you might then be accepted into a graduate program, where it’s hoped you will continue to learn more and sharpen your skills despite their now increased attention:-)

More seriously ( think as some others here, that many are resistant due to the learning curve aspect, as well to thinking as the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The one thing I’ve learned about the truth found in the mean, that being all sectors of the populous are subject to it relative to their own, with this study only serving as further evidence. That is you can never change the shape of the curve, with the best that can be done is to have it all shift to the right a bit.

Best,

Phil

Phil Warnell said...
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Phil Warnell said...

Hi Steven,

You said: ” way. I have to share my computer with 4-5 other people, so I only get 3 hours per day on it.”

How does an early adapter such as you not have his very own laptop? Perhaps this also says something about those professors. That is being a golf enthusiast myself I know a decent set of clubs often runs you more than that of a laptop these days and many professors are more likely to know what a rescue club is while they never heard of a blog. Then again I guess we all have different priorities:-)

Best,

Phil

Steven Colyer said...
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Steven Colyer said...

I have bought laptop computers. Two of them, for each of my high school grads, now college students. That's their standard H.S. graduation present. That's two down, two to go. The 5th one will probably be for myself, unless the 1 of 2 daughters loses/breaks hers. Her track record with iPods is lousy, of which I've bought 7 (3 for her alone).

I have a cell phone, very reluctantly. I will never tweet or twitter. OR ESPECIALLY a Facebook account. Somehow, I survive without them.

100 years ago Phil, Henry Ford was just getting started. Five years after Special Relativity, and five years before General Relativity, people walked or biked or rode a horse. "Livery stables" were everywhere. Horses were king. A horse killed Pierre Curie. And many others. Automobiles would kill plenty more. The airplane was a whole 7 years old.

Somehow, people survived even then. Well, except the Livery stable owners. Ford put THEM out of business right quick, in due time.

And a cultural paradigm shift occurred. The young, being internal combustion engine-orientated, knew more than the older generation, for the first time since factories were invented by the English circa 1750.

And for the last time too, until Paul Allen in the mid 1970's of 2-man "operation" Microsoft realized that on his way to an Arizona meeting with Altair that the MS-DOS program he and Gates picked up for a sweet ten grand didn't have a source code, and if they were to impress (i.e., have MS-DOS actually run), then he damn well better write one on the plane, which he did, and the rest as they say, is history.

And the technologically astute youth of the world reign triumphant, yet again.