I don’t believe in the Digital Native, a position that does not make me an outlier here at LLU. Perhaps it’s the students I see, or those at my institution, but what I see is a large body of consumers and a small body of producers, with the exception of certain tools. When I have presented blogging to language classes this semester, I counted myself lucky to see a third of the students in a session self-identify as having blogged previously. The proportion of students who admitted having created video before a session I led this morning was even lower — more like 15%.
Nonetheless, my approaches to teaching academic technology to instructors and students are very different. When I led a session on video editing for language instructors, it took me the entire ninety minutes to get through the basic material. Conversely, in this morning’s session for students, I burned through the concepts in less than an hour, and even added a discussion of proper citation as well as a walkthrough of subtitling. Why the discrepancy?
To me, it’s about my audiences’ networks, or at least my impressions of them. What I see and hear of our instructors’ environments suggests that they are rather fragmented. Within any given department, there are some close collegial relationships, but the majority of those who showed up to the video editing session I led last fall were LCTL instructors, often islands within a department or council that is itself an island. Conversely, though, our students are by and large connected all the time. Leaving aside considerations of Sherry Turkle’s concerns, my institution has a resident (and overwhelmingly on-campus at that) student body that’s very conscious of the importance of networking while they can. I mean this in ways both social and cynical, but the upshot is the same. When I teach to instructors, I work on the assumption that they are going to leave my room and sit by themselves to do work. When I teach to students, I work from the presumption that they are going to leave the room and be with groups for most of the rest of the day, whether dyads or larger groups.
Another part of the students’ network is the support provided them on campus. When I run down the support options for students, I can name four to five groups that exist to serve student technology needs, with the understanding that technology and student life is inextricable (hence, perhaps, the wide misperceptions of student technological proficiency). This doesn’t include me and my unit. When I do the same for instructors, I come up with one or two. To boot, support organizations for instructors tend to be compartmentalized into administrative support, employment support, tech support, and pedagogical or professional development support.
Other institutions may be better at supporting instructors wholly than we are. Besides, they’re adults, right? They can manage their needs better than the students, who are only learning to be independent adults? This doesn’t resonate with the conversations I have with our instructors. Something tells me that we need to apply our ideas about how students learn more often to situations outside the classroom, that is to staff and faculty — who are learners themselves in their own domains — as well.
[For the first time in quite a while, I'm trying posting without much drafting and redrafting. Such is my guilt at doing so that I'm posting this attempt at expiation.]