This past summer, I worked on the educational design of New Student Orientation. Our sudden veer to a 100% digital environment in the middle of Spring term challenged us. Remotely, we created a remote experience.
It was a triumph of technology. Forced to work from home, everyone and everything came together. We lived on two platforms: Zoom for communication, Blackboard for content. Colleges had their sessions; advisors had theirs. For the most part, everything came off without a hitch. It was an iterative process. Should we have to do it again - fingers crossed - we would do it even better. Soon we will return to a F2F student orientation. Still, I am confident we learned many lessons on the best use of technology.
One of the projects on which I worked was the Faculty Panel Videos. Tim Caron and Kim Costino conceived the project. It featured two sessions, four faculty members in one, three in the other. Tim asked the faculty to describe their student experiences. Their challenges, frustrations, and coping strategies. It was a fantastic idea that showed new students that their professors were once like them.
I remember thinking how I would respond to these questions were I on one of the Panels. One question in particular stuck with me. Based on your experience, what would you tell students so they could learn from your mistakes? My first response would have been, Get to know your professors during office hours. More than anything else, that will humanize your education.
I’d ask them to consider the various technologies they take for granted. Especially social media with its issues of privacy and the permanence of posts.
I’d conclude with an introduction to Turnitin. I would prefer they heard about it first in an informal talk during Orientation. I’d mention the five problems that “A Guide for Resisting EdTech: the Case Against Turnitin” lists:
It undermines students’ authority over their own work
It places students in a role of needing to be “policed.”
It creates a hostile environment
It supplants good teaching with use of inferior technology.
And, last but not least, it violates student privacy.
I’d do so because it’s important that students don’t accept these technologies at face value. Educational technology plays a tug of war with student agency. Students need to know the costs as well as the benefits.