We live in a hyper-connected age; ours is a technology saturated society of instantaneous messaging, vast networks of streaming information and a deluge of images that give a vertiginous tinge to life and leave an overwhelming sense of relentless acceleration. Yet, for all of the allure of our digital devices and the promise of continual connectivity and efficiency, I have discovered that in my classroom something is missing. Over the last several years I have come to understand that while the benefits of our digital age are widespread and undeniable, it does seem we have forgotten something fundamentally important—we no longer know how to speak with one another. Somehow we must find the way to transform the classroom with technology without losing the practice of engaging in meaningful conversation.
This is why, for the last two years I have worked with Confluence Courseware to create Open Education Resource (OER) based Course Guides for my classes, in an effort to not only reduce the cost of classroom materials (the required textbook costs to students have been cut in half), and thus boost learning, but also to reverse current social trends by using digital technology not as an ends but a means—as a tool to promote genuine and significant human conversation. Using open access great works—including influential and important texts from all of human history in the creative arts and literature, religion, philosophy, the natural, applied and social sciences—these Course Guides utilize the more beneficial aspects of our technological society, while mitigating the more deleterious cultural consequences by requiring more classroom conversations (and out-of-class preparation for engagement). In other words, Course Guides:
1) reduce cost to students;
2) dramatically increase use of learning materials; and
3) find the center between technological advance and sincere dialogue.