Lisa Lane calls for the desegregation of online learning.  I wonder if this is a good idea for several reasons.

1. Although I used to be a  full time faculty member, I now pay my rent and afford to eat because elearning/instructional technology specialists are considered valuable.  I like to eat and have a roof over my head. Here endeth the disclaimer.

2. Lisa mentions Don Tapscott’s Grown Up Digital and talks about technological transparency, the idea that, for those who grow up after a technology is in wide use, the technology becomes transparent.  One is not aware of the explicit act of using the technology, instead being aware of the task one is using the technology to complete.   She compares current students’ use of computers to her transparent use of a refrigerator.  Í wonder if this isn’t pushing the analogy a bit far. I think of something like an LMS as being more akin to a car.  It may become a transparent technology at some point, but it is complex enough that one must learn (and most often be taught) how to use it.  I’m not trying to suggest that everyone must take driver’s ed or complete a formal LMS training.  However, very few people can sit down behind the wheel of an automobile for the first time and just start driving.  The exercise is sufficiently complex that some sort of  “training” is necessary, even if that training is going around and around an empty mall parking lot on Sunday with Mom or Dad in the passenger seat. Similarly, most users need some guidance as they learn their way around an LMS.

3. There’s a difference between consumers and producers that’s relevant here.  Lisa asks “Did anyone ever offer training on how to effectively use a video in class?” My question is, “Do you know how to make a video for class?”

In the good old days, the professor in the classroom could easily use the same technology (writing) as the “content producers”. When the 20th century arrived, a technology and skills  gap opened between the teacher and those who could produce audio (and later video). The arrival of the personal computer closed the first part of that gap but not the second. While we all have on our desktops video production systems the capabilities of what a television station had twenty years ago, how many instructors know both how to “push the buttons” and how to plan and execute a good video segment , for example.  The majority who don’t have three options

A. Troll the web/your favorite LOR for something appropriate

B.  Rely on whatever your textbook publisher makes available

C. Make use of a specialist whose job it is to make the technology transparent for you by worrying about the button pushing and the conventions of the medium while you focus on content and instructional design.

To put this another way, do we want instructors to spend their time dealing with the details of video/audio/web applications?

3.  Part of the reason refigerators are tranparent is that the interface, such as it is, has remained unchanged for many years.  Computing may reach this point some day, but it’s not there yet.   Think about the number of tools we use today (microblogging)  that are new and untransparent to everyone older than a kindergartner. While natural language  processing and speech recognition will eventually get us to the point where we’ll just tell the computer (if it even still exists as a separate device) what we want, I don’t think we will run out of new tools to be evangelized and figured out anytime soon.