Questioning ICTs in the Classroom

In a March 11, 2008, article in Inside Higher Ed (“Harsh Realities About Virtual Ones“), Michael Bugeja (director of the Greenlee School at Iowa State University and author of Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age), argues that we need to be far more sceptical about calls for “engagement” using new communication technologies in teaching settings. Amongst a range of very strong points, Bugeja argues that “we are outsourcing our environment when we invest in virtual worlds and social networks, and their vendors bind us by service terms that make our institutions liable”.  Moreover, he adds: “Attempting to engage today’s students, we have embraced consumer technologies on the flawed assumption that students want to learn through the same devices that amuse and distract them”. These are some good questions. His greatest concern seems to be that by adopting various platforms, such as Second Life, Facebook, etc., that we as academics are underwriting a consumer culture and the corporations that advance these products in the name of engagement. The article provoked a substantial range of disagreement, from questions concerning Bugeja’s notion of “commitment” rather than “engagement”, to the statistics he uses to claim that the great majority of students would not want to contact a librarian via Facebook or MySpace.