Asking New Questions

This morning as I was plowing through the post TLT Symposium haze I came across a track back to a couple of my posts last week over at my friend and colleague, Dr. Chris Brady’s site titled “Technology revolution or evolution.” I started to leave a comment at Chris’ blog, but thought I might work to extend the conversation a bit by offering a little bit more thought to my response. In so many ways I agree completely with what Chris is saying, but wanted to extend it just a bit.

While I don’t see any massive revolution on the horizon in the teaching space, I do see a continual refinement of our understanding of the affordances emerging (or emerged) technologies have on classroom practice. I don’t think web 2.0 is any more related to scholarship than the chalkboard when taken by itself. When I argue that new forms of scholarship are emerging, I am asking people to consider there are new opportunities to ask new types of questions that couldn’t be asked before. Take for example the “Texas Slavery Project” from the University of Richmond. When I got a chance to sit down and listen to the researchers behind it, they insisted that being able to visualize data in this environment caused them to ask questions they hadn’t considered before — that is, the technology was used to create new scholarship opportunities.

We’ve started working with quite a few humanities faculty here at ETS to let them do things with these tools that couldn’t be done before. If we dismiss the notion that these tools are somehow outside the boundaries of scholarship (and I do not believe Chris was saying that) we are not maximizing our new ability to attack new and interesting questions.

So back to the conversation around the Twitter use in the classroom that Scott McDonald and I stumbled upon … we are eager to investigate these same kinds of emergent questions in classrooms — the outcome of the Twitter use in class last year was shocking to me and without that experience I would not be able to question the value of backchannel conversations as enablers of learning. This is just a question that would not exist without the initial disruption. Is a revolution coming? Perhaps, but it will feel more like a glacier moving across the frozen tundra — a few centimeters at a time. But to me, that works because each step makes a big difference for a few students.