Professor Robert Schneider sees things clearly:
Podcasts of university courses are not "every student's dream"; they're totally bogus, a thin surrogate for real instruction, a fig leaf for disengagement, an excuse for lack of commitment from professors and students alike. People who believe in the transformative value of higher education will resist podcastification with a passion.I hope that he's right.
Professor Schneider is writing in response to a student-journalist's commentary on said "dream." He quotes from her description:
Wake up for school, stumble over to the computer, and download the day's class lectures . . . then crawl back into bed -- iPod in one hand, notebook in the other.This scene reminds me in some way of the picture of intellectual and emotional isolation near the end of The Waste Land:
We think of the key, each in his prisonI remember being presented some years ago with the argument that a college course consisting of videotaped lectures was a good "alternative" for students, particularly students who did not seek much contact with professors. "Professor in a can," some of us were calling it (or was it "in a box"?). What would the person "administering" the class (who would not be the professor on tape) do? Give and grade exams two or three times a semester.
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
As I've written in a previous blog post (about wireless classrooms), technology makes it possible to do things, not necessary to do them. It's possible to be a professor in a can. It's possible to stay in bed and take notes on a voice coming to you through headphones. But there are better ways to teach and learn.
Follow the link for the rest of Schneider's passionate rebuttal of what he calls "dystopian nonsense."
The Attack of the Pod People (Chronicle of Higher Education)