I went to an informal workshop/discussion this afternoon held by some folks in Continuing Education about audio files, podcasting, and some other multimedia technologies for teaching, mostly for teaching online. Mostly, a good time was had by one and all– mostly. I think the tech support guys for CE did a good job, and, while I was very much non-prepared and experienced some technical problems (which, on the plus side, gave me a chance to mock Windoze), I think at least some people got something out of what I said. So it was mostly good.
But not completely. Thus the title of my post.
Here are what I saw as the problems:
- Podcast frenzy! Podcast frenzy! Not all but many of the faculty at this event were there because they had heard of this thing called Podcasting and, based on the buzz, they figured they had better get on the band-wagon and get on right now. But it seemed pretty clear to me that many of these folks– again, not all, but many– really did not know what they would do with a Podcast or if they would ever Podcast or, really, at the end of the day, what a “Podcast” was. I didn’t ask, but it might have been interesting to ask how many of the attendees had actually heard a podcast.
- Tangent-Land. Somewhere along the line, someone brought up one of those issues, maybe the issue, that always comes up at sessions that involve teaching with technology: what about copyright, what about fair-use? For me, the main reason why these issues are always so frustrating are because no one— certainly no one has not made IP and copyright their full-time business– knows the answer. Furthermore, no one– certainly no one in academia– wants to admit that they don’t know the answer. So what ends up happening is people talk about things they may (or may not) know about IP and copyright, at least until someone says something like “we can’t solve that now, so let’s just move on.” Ultimately, I think this fear of the rules and not knowing them and being afraid of some unknown consequences are enough to chill innovation. But that’s kind of a tangent in itself, so let’s move on.
- We can’t do that, real and fake. Okay, there is a lot of things we really can’t do with online classes and with things like podcasting. We can’t assume that all of the students have a high-speed internet access (though most of them do). We can’t assume students have this or that kind of computer, which is also probably true. But then there’s the fake can’t due. For example, it became clear after a while that there were any number of things that were just a lot easier to do with a Mac. So someone asked at one point “So, does that mean we can’t do this stuff if we don’t have a Mac?” (And, of course, my answer is why don’t you have a Mac already?)
The most troublesome “we (or really, you) can’t do that” of the afternoon for me is I was told that it was “against the rules” for me to use a non-EMU server space to host teaching materials, as in any of the pages available here. The conversations I had after this event with various folks suggests this is just wrong, but again, it’s another example of a knee-jerk “we can’t do that” for no good reason sort of rule. Sounds like an administrator to me….