What follows is my own attempt to figure out what I think about the subjects discussed, so it has no official standing whatever. John Blackburn's parallel text [found via Wayback, 29vii '04] complements what I've written.

29-30 April 1999 (see also subsequent scheme of 13 May, and some links for consideration)
Thinking and planning for the future of "technology in teaching" or "computers and learning" or "information technology" is hampered by the familiar bugaboos of

We have no trouble agreeing that computers are at the center of this future, that students, faculty and staff need to develop skills of various sorts, and that the university should provide the infrastructure for this evolution. We agree on the desirability of planning, and aspire to "fully integrate technology" into the educational process.

We can look back on a recent past of remarkable changes: networked computers are on all faculty and staff desks and in many public locations, students have ready access to network facilities, and W&L has a well-developed presence on the Web. Most of the W&L community is more or less adept at the basics of the (1) communication and (2) information retrieval aspects of computer use, and a growing minority is actively involved in (3) creation of multimedia content for electronic distribution.

In the near future: A growing interest in multimedia, and in data visualization. "Electronic classrooms" are on the horizon, though their contents and uses are still in debate. Other future directions might include web pages for the Class of 2003 (which could contribute to the enskilling of new users), and my portfolio scheme, which could greatly expand student participation in content creation for the Web.

We really know remarkably little about how people at W&L actually use computing resources, though there's anecdotal evidence of lots of MP3 files choking the student server, and public computers that can be used for e-mail (such as those in the Reference circle in Leyburn Library) are used for that purpose much more than for other forms of information retrieval. Students are widely believed to use the web as the primary source for information they might previously have found within the library, and are said to use what they find uncritically.

I've been trying to identify rubrics for the various facets of "information technology" that I have heard discussed in recent meetings, to separate means and objectives that underly the concerns of various constituencies and client bases, and at the moment I have 6 that seem salient and distinct:

I've been trying to imagine innovations and evolutions that would do the most to change the culture of computing at W&L, without a lot of success. It's interesting that laptop culture is so little in evidence --not that laptops are all that wonderful (in fact I despise their compromises and find them very frustrating to use), but they are much more common at lots of institutions not so very different from W&L. Would wireless networking make a difference? Or is it really a matter of waiting for the next versions of the technology? And in fact it may be that hardware is less important than changing the public notions of what information is all about.

It's obvious that computers have become full members of the global network of communications technologies, though the tacit assumption in academic circles often seems to be that they are really just glorified typewriters and adding machines, and as such are peripheral to the real mental work of academe. It is this identity as a communication tool that should be at the center of our efforts to "fully integrate technology" into education.