I have to admit that even though I had repeatedly heard complaints about Blackboard, I did not know what these complaints were really about. As an undergrad, Blackboard was easy enough to navigate and allowed me access to course documents, which I often misplaced in piles of other papers. As an instructor, Blackboard lets me communicate with the entire class at once in the form of emails or announcements and lets me share documents pretty effortlessly. Aside from the site being down on occasion (but not so frequently to be a real nuisance), I did not see what the problem with Blackboard was. What I didn’t realize was that Blackboard is an expensive piece of software that is being bankrolled by CUNY money that could be better spent on other technologies.
I’m currently teaching at Hostos Community College in the Bronx. The classrooms do not have anything but a chalkboard in them (they don’t even have chalk!). I would like to show students video clips but in order to do so, I need to sign out a COW (Computer on Wheels). The problem is that there are few COWs to go around. Knowing that the money spent on expensive software, which could be replaced with free and cheap software, could be used on projectors and computers for each classroom is infuriating. So, yeah, now I get the Blackboard hate. What I don’t understand is why administrators would continue wasting this money. Is it ignorance? Is it just the safety of sticking with the known?
Gold & Otte
One of my possible project ideas is to use some form of social networking site in which students and I could share musings on course topics, as well as any other more informal posts. Part of what appeals to me about it is the possible re-formation of hierarchical relations — professors are people too, and the more students see that, the higher the likelihood for honest interaction (???). However, I have to admit that there is something about this blurring of boundaries that is quite scary. In the Academic Commons, members are much closer to being colleagues — even when interactions are between professors and graduate students — than in a social network encompassing undergrads and their professor. Perhaps tapping into the same collaborative spirit that helped the Commons thrive would neutralize the possible pitfalls of social networking with students. What I mean is that maybe instead of it seeming “inappropriate,” it could be seen as a project that we are all creating as a cohesive group. To be continued…