I finished reading High Tech Heretic today. Although, I am not happy with Stoll’s suggestion that “[T]eachers are an unnecessary appendix at …cyberschool.” and that teachers will be basically be eliminated by electronic classrooms, I am glad that I read this book because it does clearly communicate ideas/problems/issues that should be given consideration as drawbacks that could arise in cyber communication and more directly, in a teaching-learning environment. Stoll does a good job of pointing out in detail red flags as he sees them and according to specific studies that he cites. I agree with some of what the book says, mildly disagree with parts, and totally disagree with others. However, I haven’t taken the time to find sources to back up my point of view so all I have is my opinion.
One matter that I disagree with is the notion that distance education equals a third-rate education. I have taken several distance education courses and can’t recall being disappointed with any of them. One or two met early in the morning when I was barely awake and / or late in the evening when I could barely stay awake, but other than that personal problem, I learned and felt prepared to advance to the next level.
Another area of conflict for me is in the proposition that electronic classrooms don’t develop any real sense of community. I don’t think this idea is valid. Even if I don’t see my classmates, I still feel like we have a common goal and most of us are working to help each other interpret course material. The fact is we may be too far from each other in terms of physical distance to help if we lock our keys up in the car on a rainy day, but we can commiserate in our blogs when we write again. Some of my classmates and I, people whom I have never met in person, regularly IM each other. We may never have lunch together, go shopping or do any of that stuff, but we may also never do that in a face-to-face class either. I actually look forward to signing on and reading new comments and postings. This has become a regular part of my day and something that I look forward to. When I see familiar names and read about similar struggles and triumphs, I feel that I am part of a community.
I sort of agree with his take on software. It is aggravating to load a program only to find that parts are not working properly and one must ask someone or go online to figure out how to correct the problem. Sometimes, an enormous amount of time is spent in this job and time is precious. But, what can one do, except spend the time to figure out the problem, which creates stress often in a time when folks have almost reached their limit anyway. I don’t even want to discuss crashes. To this, though, I fall back on the line that nothing is perfect and there will always be some type of problem to overcome. We have come a long way from DOS.
I also get aggravated with the constant upgrades and costs of new computers, software, and user fees. Granted, computers have gone down a bunch in price, but it is hard to keep up with new processors and the latest technology. F’rinstance, right now, I am trying to figure out Blu-ray and whether I need it or how long it is going to be before I need it. Also, how much is that going to cost?
His idea that we have too many bells and whistles on everything is near to my heart. To quote Stoll, “I am particularly incensed at the clutter of unnecessary features added to common household appliances.” Every time I buy a new appliance, I try to find the machine that is most energy efficient and does the work for which it is designed with a minimum of gadgets so that I can 1) easily operate it and 2) spend a minimum amount of money. Eliminating all the extras is another time-consuming task.
Admittedly, there are features of my computer that I have yet to fully explore and I am afraid they will be obsolete before I do have the time to play with them!
There’s more that I could say about High Tech Heretic and will in a day or two, but for now I am going to go and contemplate what I can do with my old computer. A fish tank is a good idea. I’m leaning more toward a planter, though. Or, I do have four cats and only one litter box…