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Computers are great but humans are better

Thursday, April 23, 2020

We were originally supposed to start the school year one month late, early in May. When it was decided, I couldn’t imagine that we would be able to teach in May, and I soon suspected we would be teaching online, as other colleges were starting to do. I got an email at midnight of the day the Prime Minister declared a state of emergency, saying that my school would do everything online until August.

I’m 69 and retiring at 70. Until early this year, I was thinking I would just teach the same classes as usual and comfortably slide down to retirement. I started teaching 47 years ago when photocopiers were a novelty, and I’ve kept my teaching very low tech. Now I’m forced to learn things I ducked learning over the years. On top of that, I’ve had to try to learn how to make the switch to online teaching by reading information sent in Japanese - a double load. I can sort of read, but not very well. I’ll be looking at online resources in English soon.

A great thing about scrambling to learn like this is I get completely absorbed in it, and I get satisfaction from learning things I’d wondered how to do but hadn’t absolutely needed to. I forget about the pandemic for hours on end.

Judging by other colleges’ experiences, the whole thing is likely to be a mess and very hard for students, especially first year students. I am rather in awe of younger teachers who can do amazing things with computers in class. It’s good, even necessary to improve your teaching with these tools, but they can’t replace the warmth of human contact.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Oh my! Your brain is going to get SO full! I loved it when technology came into the library world. I was a passionate advocate for it. I loved it so much that I thought I might make the switch from library to techie. But after the first class - when I realized that even the teacher was telling me what I was learning was already obsolete - I thought - oops. I'm too old to learn this stuff. It's too much like 14 year olds - switching things around just because they can.

    But I have been digging into how to do more technologically the past few weeks and you are right - it can be completely absorbing. You'll be glad you know what you learn even if you do retire at 70. and you're so cool to tackle it with such courage! Enjoy getting more knowledgeable.
    100 days ago
    My daughter is teaching her students online. But, of course, she grew up with technology so it isn't that much of a challenge. Though she's saying it's actually more work than having the entire classroom right in front of her.
    I understand your difficulty and applaud you for raising to the challenge. Getting out of our comfort zones is challenging and maybe downright scary, but it sure helps keep the brain nimble :)
    Best wishes! You've got this!
    103 days ago
    Good for you for rising to meet the challenge . . . and even taking pleasure in it!! I imagine you will find a way to bring your particular human touch into the online teaching process too!!
    103 days ago
    How great that you’re able to enjoy the learning and forget about CV at the same time!
    103 days ago
    Yow! The transition to online teaching and learning is happening all over the world, and I would be paralyzed at the thought of having to master the technology to make it happen; and, like you, I would end my sessions with that feeling of a job well done. My husband and I sometimes say that we're stuck in the Dark Ages, and I've often said it would be nice to have a teenager in the house to help us navigate the technology. You will get through this, you know. Maybe use one of the online translators to get through the background reading....?

    I used to have a manager who would say that a challenging project was "another opportunity to excel," and I think that applies here. And just think of the brain cells you're developing and the lengthening of telomeres!
    103 days ago
    You should be very proud of yourself for learning all these new skills.
    104 days ago
    Good luck to you. These are really different times for sure.
    104 days ago
    As I read your account of the difficulties of suddenly having to switch to teaching online after all those years in the classroom, I was expecting you to do what I always do about this kind of thing--complain and say, "I can't do it! And anyway, I'm retiring soon, so it's a waste of time to learn some new way of teaching." But your attitude is so inspiring! You have dived into this with a great spirit of optimism and determination.

    I agree with you about preferring in-person contact with students, though. I haven't yet tried to teach online (all my company classes have been canceled and I doubt any will be scheduled any time soon), but I do have a one-to-one that's supposed to resume in early May, and I'm wondering if I'm going to have to do it online, or if I should request that it be so. Riding the trains at the moment doesn't look like such a good idea, especially at my age. I've Skyped with family before, but I can't imagine using a textbook and everything while trying to teach. But I think online is the wave of the future, so I'll take inspiration from you, go knock on Kana's door for lessons in technology, and try not to be lazy. This whole thing might turn out to have some positive effects.

    Hope everything is going well at home and you're feeling fine and fit!
    104 days ago
  • EISSA7
    It may not have been the way you envisioned your career ending BUT it sounds like a challenge that you are rather enjoying! Always good to stretch the brain.... emoticon
    104 days ago
    Wow! Good for you for undertaking this new project! I have never been comfortable with all the technology but learned "on the job" what I needed to know and was always surprised when I was the one able to teach others! It really does pass the time and increase brain power!
    How nice you are thinking of the impact on your students! You could have just given up the job and instead, took on the challenge!
    I agree that face-to-face has its own virtues but most young people spend their time online anyway. I have wondered if online learning was easier on the ego since you can search out other avenues if the information is confusing and still remain anonymous? I often find myself heading "down the rabbit hole" for more, different, better information if I am interested or confused. The old "one thing leads to another" method of learning!
    Keep us posted on how it's going!

    105 days ago
    You're right about technology having its strengths; but, it cannot replace the warmth of human contact. Research has been conducted: online versus in-person learning and the outcomes are better for in-person learning. Unfortunately, that is not possible right now for many of us.

    Over a decade ago, I began polling students regarding their desire to go online with some of the teaching. Much to my surprise they DID NOT want me to do it. For 2 years (2008-2009 & 2009-2010 academic years), they continued to overwhelming give the thumbs down. For the 2010-2011 academic year, I decided we were going partially online whether or not the students were onboard with me or not.

    By that time many of our students had access to smart phones and/or laptops. The tide was turning. Much to their surprise, there were aspects that they found beneficial: not lugging around a hefty textbook for example. Although, when they were working in person in the center, they'd often check out a hard copy for use within the lab rather than view it on their electronic devices. Having 24-hour access to assistance (I'm not available to them 24/7) was HUGE!

    Understand getting absorbed in learning new things. I also derive great satisfaction from learning. And, the time flies! Doesn't it?

    Good luck to you as you ride this unexpected wave into your retirement. emoticon
    105 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/23/2020 11:36:20 AM
    emoticon emoticon
    105 days ago
    I so agree. Nothing can replace human touch. I hope you are staying safe my dear.
    emoticon emoticon
    105 days ago
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