Education and Values: Interface on the Internet

Scenario 2

The ‘C’ in ICT:
Email and Other Opportunities to Make a Fool of Yourself

Whizbang Technofumble
You are a professor at Darngood University. It is October. Next January you, and a colleague from another department, plan to take a group of 16 students to India for a three week travel course. You are meeting weekly with these students during the fall to prepare them for this trip. You have a great email listserv set up and use it regularly to communicate with the class. One day a student replies to an all class email and says: “Professor Eggface, did you intend to send us this?” Following this message professor Eggface reads what he sent to class and turns red. Eggface was single and often used email to communicate with someone who he had begun to date in September. He has no idea how it happened but he managed to include a very embarrassing e-conversation between himself and this someone in an otherwise routine email to the class.


More Than You Want to Know
You teach a number of courses using WebCT. In one course you come across a posting by a student which reads, “This professor is a real asshole! I’ve never been so insulted in my life. He told me I should read my fucking paper out loud to myself to proofread it. Fuck him. (Hell, maybe I should…. He’s an asshole but he’s kinda cute.)” The student apparently thought she was sending private email to another student.

Making the Dean’s List
You are a professor at Darngood U. You receive an email from your Dean which is sent to all faculty in the college. It infuriates you and you instantly fire off a memo to your best buddy colleague who shares your view of the Dean. You have a special name for the Dean (“Ebola”) which you and few other colleagues sometimes use. You use this name in the memo to refer to the Dean. Just as you begin to picture the smile on your colleagues face when he reads your memo a glimmer of doubt floats through your mind. You quickly go to the “sent” folder and find the memo. You then open it. Your pulse rate triples and you nearly faint when you realize that when you hit the send button you accidently sent this note to everyone in the college, including “Ebola.”

I Didn’t MEAN That!
It happened again… You wrote what you thought was a simple well-reasoned friendly email to a colleague. In her reply you read in the subject field, “Dis.” She apparently took your note as some sort of indirect sarcastic attack. No matter how many smiley faces you stick in your notes you keep finding this sort of thing happening. You do not seem to have this problem in face to face conversations. It is beginning to be a serious problem for you in your relations with others.

Twilight Zone
You keep getting emails from your division chair that you would describe as sometimes “passive aggressive” and other times lecturing and stern. But when you see your colleague and talk to him he is friendly and always surprised that you read the email in this way. You begin to doubt your own perceptions of what these emails say.

Duck and Cover
Its your first all faculty listserv type use of email. There is a debate going on about whether the college should allow the use of University facilities for a debate between advocates of “creation science” and the theory of evolution. The debate is interesting and you follow it with interest. However, the emails quickly become acerbic and bordering on the personal. Knowing some of the people who are sending these emails you are surprised by what they are saying. The email “discussion” has spun out of control and then suddenly disappears. You wonder to yourself, “what happened?”

Where’s the Prof?
You have become a true blue road warrior professor. You are always plugged in and turned on. Your syllabus is online. Student papers are submitted online. You have conferences with your students on line. When your less technophilic colleagues are tucked away in bed you are responding to a few last email questions from students who need some help at 11 pm. You work hard, but it is paying off. On student evaluations your scores for helpfulness and accessibility are the best in the division. You are soon coming up for tenure and you smile. When you receive your evaluation by your ICTless division chair you come across this line in the section on teaching effectiveness: “Professor Marvel is rarely in his office and is not available to his students. If he does not take his commitment to students more seriously I will not be able to recommend him for tenure.” You are stunned. No appeal to student evaluations or explanations of ICT seem compelling to your chair. The sentence remains in your file.

Questions

- How has the “C” in “ICT” affected our lives as educators?
- Have you had similar experiences to those related above? Are there other anecdotes you would like to add?
- What are the moral commitments implicitly involved in hitting the “send” button in your email program?
- What impact does the medium of email and other online communication protocols have on the way we connect with other people (our colleagues, our students, our families, etc.)? Does the medium itself construct certain pathways of self understanding and understanding of the other?
- Have the new communication technologies advanced or encumbered our goals as educators?


Berglund Center Home Page  http://bcis.pacificu.edu
Last Updated 1/23/02
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Questions: Mark Bailey - baileym@pacificu.edu