19 February 2014

The Invisible Technology Subsidy

At most institutions, knowing who you're teaching, communicating with them, and getting their grade onto a transcript requires the following:
  • email
  • online enrollment records
  • http://www.rexblog.com/2011/03/30/22872
  • online final grade entry
Effective teaching also involves some or all of the following:
  • use of an institution's course management system 
  • online grading
  • digital course material  
  • Powerpoint or Prezi
  • instruction in using the digital resources of the institution's library
Mind you, this is all specific to bricks-and-mortar classrooms, not online learning.  Students navigate a digital world with or without us, and some instructors go farther--keeping abreast of learning technology and finding innovative ways to use social media, online archives, and the like to get students engaged in the material.

And who pays for the equipment?

The growing minority of tenure-stream faculty may get funding to pay for the computers, software, dongles that make that digital activity possible; adjunct faculty generally, do not.  At best, they share a computer with other adjuncts in a shared office.  A laptop is not an optional luxury for most adjuncts: it's a vital professional tool, and it neither gets paid for by the institution nor is it eligible for technical support to make it easier to use the software and systems that the institution requires of its employees. In the building where I teach, the campus wifi is not supported in shared offices, so faculty have to decamp to a library or coffeeshop in order to email students or mount grades on the course management system.

Adjuncts teaching in these conditions can--and do!--deliver a 21st-century education, but they are subsidizing it with their own investments in the necessary technology.

1 comment :

  1. Agreed, and a really good point. The technological investments -- or the lack thereof - into temporary instructors is often shortsighted.

    I haven't gotten the short end of the stick on this interaction much, but my few experiences suggest that one of the biggest blind spots when it comes to adjunct instructors is adequate technological support.

    When I taught once as an adjunct a few years ago, I learned the day before the semester started that students have been emailing my campus address for three months, ever since I was added to the books. But I didn't even know I had a campus email address. Nobody even thought to inform me about this part of the job, much less offer any training.

    I landed a visiting asst. prof. job for one year. The job was actually great, full benefits, acceptable salary, even a bit of money for research and a bit of lab space and my own office. And moving expenses to start the job. BUT my office had a very old computer that had trouble doing what I needed to fulfill job functions. They supported me in every way possible except for the technology. That was both frustrating for me, but also made my teaching less effective.