This morning my daughter announces that her class is going on a field trip to the University Astronomy Lab.
Her personal favorite planet is Jupiter.
All day, I’ve been thinking about the wonder she’ll feel. These planetarium shows, according to the website, “feature spectacular astronomical images from the surface of Mars, to dusty nebulae, to dazzling galaxies, rendered in three dimensions with the aid of special eyeglasses and projection screens.”
This kind of technology might just provide a sublime experience for these children. They might go on to study astrophysics, probing deeper into the mysteries of the universe.
I wish I were there with her.
But I had my own experience with technology and education today. I received my classroom assignment for next semester, so on my way back to the parking lot, I casually pop into my future classrooms. One of them hides deep within an ancient campus building. The tiny room has 25 chairs and desks and a long table up front (for me). I’m not sure I even have a chalkboard to use in that room. These are the rooms instructors beg to get switched. They shed tears over these assignments and bribe administrative assistants to send them to any other classroom.
But I love rooms like that. I request the simplest classroom.
The second classroom resides in a building I haven’t visited yet–the Business School. I walk in, and I’m immediately transported to another universe. A ticker on the wall brags out the stock market numbers. Flat screen TV’s broadcast major network news. Coffee shops send out an aroma that, in this environment, makes me feel rushed and nervous. Everybody’s in suits, and the click of high heels on the floor breeds a strange insecurity in me.
I find my classroom.
It’s spectacular, dazzling. Each wall has a projection screen, and I count no less than 7 white boards that light up for my notes. My podium up front features more buttons than I could ever figure out what to do with. It has a microphone. If I touch this one button, the lights dim and a huge screen descends behind me.
Maybe another button ushers in my avatar who teaches for me while I go get a latte.
The students’ seats swivel, and I’m not sure, but I wonder if each desk has its own laptop built in.
I turn a circle in this future classroom, and then I immediately think: “This is so . . . distracting!”
What will I do with so much technology? What could it inspire in folks trying to learn to use strong verbs and varied sentence structure? Am I now putting on a show with lights and sounds? At what point does the technology distract rather than enrich?
I’ve posed the question to my technology-inundated students. Shall I change my course? One man leaned back (in his old desk) and said, “Don’t do it. Don’t use the technology. People want to talk about their ideas together in class. That’s what they really want.”
But is there something I’m missing?
Living with flair means I figure out how to use technology in ways that enrich and offer sublime experiences. Because it can. I just don’t know how–as a writing teacher–it will.
Do you know?