Meet Professor Nutting
When I read conversations like the mini-debate between Garr Reynolds and Derek Bruff in Student Engagement: Digital Versus Analog? I am disappointed that people like Reynolds act as if the choice of a tool is an all-or-nothing proposition. I am pretty fond of Presentation Zen, so I’m not going to pick on Garr Reynolds. Instead, allow me to personify this attitude in a fictional professor named Al R. Nutting.
When someone says they favor using PowerPoint in the classroom, Al assumes they use it every day for the entire class period.When the technology resource specialist suggests he consider using a course management system, Al imagines himself having to use all twenty tools and not being permitted to use paper handouts. If the conversation turns to Second Life, Al imagines that the idea is to move all course activities into a virtual world.
Similarly, after Al notices three students in his class of fifty scanning FaceBook on their laptops he bans any sort of use of laptops at any time.
I’m not saying Al is a nut case; he’s just misguided. I understand some of the reasons behind his attitude. It’s easier to say either yes or no all the time; you don’t have to justify the exceptions. Al is not a famous speaker, but many of them seem to have a similar view of the world. They are famous for taking strong stances, and debating from an extreme position enhances their cachet.
You and I can do better than Al R. Nutting and the pundits. Resist the allure of the blanket answer. Consider each particular situation and decide which strategy or tool makes sense. Don’t expect that there will be a single “right” combination of tools and strategies. Your choice will depend, in part, on what works for you, your students, and the setting. And you can make a different choice on Wednesday than you made on Monday.
[Photo "Nuts 1" by Martin LaBar on Flickr]