Thursday, October 11, 2007

How not to use technology

I can't believe people would be so ridiculous as to consider virtual office hours as a serious option for a non-online course. When students are paying hundreds of dollars per credit, they have the right to face-to-face time. And when professors are getting paid to teach, they are obliged to interact with students. And if they can't stand to do this in person, they should do their students a favor and take up another profession. Just my humble opinion. Below, an excerpt from a report in the Daily Collegian, followed by excerpts from Daniel Goleman's article in The New York Times:

Web chat can't replace office visit

Using "virtual office hours" is the new trend in academia nationwide and at Penn State.

Being able to ask a professor or teaching assistant questions while sitting at work or while doing homework is a major time-saver.

But, while it is technologically savvy, it reduces some feedback that can only be achieved face-to-face.

...It would be nearly impossible to have a dialogue of feedback about a term paper, a homework assignment or an upcoming exam via a chat room.

...Maybe, it's old-fashioned, but there's something important about talking to a professor in person -- an understanding that no emoticon can express.

Why email often makes things worse -- excerpt from a New York Times report:

Email is easy to write (and to misread) neuroscience, the study of what happens in the brains of people as they interact. New findings have uncovered a design flaw at the interface where the brain encounters a computer screen: there are no online channels for the multiple signals the brain uses to calibrate emotions.

Face-to-face interaction, by contrast, is information-rich. We interpret what people say to us not only from their tone and facial expressions, but also from their body language and pacing, as well as their synchronization with what we do and say.

Most crucially, the brain’s social circuitry mimics in our neurons what’s happening in the other person’s brain, keeping us on the same wavelength emotionally. This neural dance creates an instant rapport that arises from an enormous number of parallel information processors, all working instantaneously and out of our awareness.

In contrast to a phone call or talking in person, e-mail can be emotionally impoverished when it comes to nonverbal messages that add nuance and valence to our words. The typed words are denuded of the rich emotional context we convey in person or over the phone.

Image source: The New York Times

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