Challenges and Rewards of Digital Writing and Online Presence in Academia

I tend to overreact and I am tempted to see the world in a somewhat Manichean way: a concept is good or bad, no grey area. Technology is definitely one that falls into the grey area. I think it is a fabulous tool but, like a child with a new Christmas gift, we have gotten so excited over its possibilities that we have not considered how to use it in moderation.

We have shared wonderful ideas this week about how to use technology to further a sense of community in our classrooms; however, I see that technology also has the opposite effect. When I walk down a crowded hall towards my classroom, I inevitably find my students who are waiting to enter the classroom not talking to each other, but staring down at their phones. These are students who have had the opportunity to get to know each other over the semester due, to a large degree, to my endeavors to encourage collaboration and mutual respect in the classroom. If they were not all holding cell phones, I imagine they would have something to say to each other. I must acknowledge, however, that I am pleased to see students sharing phone numbers, reminding each other of due dates, in touch when one is sick or stuck in traffic.

I plan to take a “quality rather than quantity” stance on the technology I use with my students. I will learn innovative approaches to assignments and activities, but take care to provide hand-written, impromptu, and face-to-face conversations for students who are taking a course on campus. Of course, if I am teaching an online class, especially, I need to seek ways beyond the LMS to encourage group work and communication, which is always a challenge.

My goals for this course are two-fold: I want to learn technology for better teaching practices, but also to create an online presence for myself that manifests my desire to be inquisitive about all areas of scholarship. I need to be in touch with people in my field of interest across the country (or globe!), learn about conferencing and writing opportunities and, sad to say, apply for jobs. I feel good about my ability to do both.