Most of my students are internet natives, meaning they were born after 1990 and have grown up in an environment where PCs, cell phones, and internet access is common. For these students, there has been time in their lives when they have not known the current level of technology. Speaking to these students about MyEconLab is very easy, and their comprehensive level of ‘clicking’, ‘mousing’, and other internet-savvy actions is quite high.
On the other hand, there are still non-internet natives in academe, those people who I classify as having been born prior to about 1960, and in some cases born prior to 1930. It is these people of whom I speak in this article. There aren’t very many of these types of colleagues left, and when they’re gone the “Age of Information” will be firmly implanted in the university system and the days of Do-It-Yourself homework and exam questions will be long gone.
I have two colleagues, both of whom were born prior to World War II, use some technology (cell phones and the internet), but are rather shy at learning a platform like MyEconLab. It turns out that they both ‘grew up’ as professors writing their own homework and exam questions, correcting homework and exams by hand or using multiple choice scantrons. They fondly recall the days of mimeograph machines, and spend a lot of time ‘doing by hand’ when they could be using technology to do the work for them. In this day and age, there are zero reasons that a professor should be spending his, or her, time creating from scratch questions for homework and exams, especially for introductory classes. So, approaching my colleagues about transforming their entire way of doing the behind-the-scenes work was a delicate task indeed.
What was extremely helpful was that they could see me using the technology and whizzing through my allotted work load with the greatest of ease, hardly breaking a sweat, and having much more ‘free’ time than they recall having as a first year professor. I told them, “There’s no way I could do this much work for the department, the college, and the university in and out of committees if I had to do the work by hand. It’s the MyEconLab technology that frees me from the grunt work of old-fashioned professoring.” Then I asked them how many hours per week they spent doing their job as professor. Then I compared their 10 to 20 hours per week all semester long to my three-to-four hours one time only at the beginning of the semester, to create all my homework and exams. That absolutely floored them. But, the clincher was my end-of-the-semester hour spent downloading grades, compared to their hours spent calculating grades.
So, this start of this 2011 fall semester, I’m teaching both of my colleagues how to use MyEconLab. I walk them through setting up their MyEconLab account, getting homework and exams all done for the semester, and tutor them in navigating through the website. My 80-year old colleague is still a bit unsure, but confident that with some shadowing by me and our GA, he’ll be able to get this ‘new way of teaching’ down pat. My 68-year old colleague is still a bit wobbly, but with practice (and the GA shadowing him as well) will be aces- up by the end of the semester. We have a third colleague who I offered to help tutor, but finally decided to pass the opportunity, saying that it was too late for him and he would rather not have to learn a new technology (other than his cell phone and the internet). He’ll be retiring next spring, his advice of “when you realize that you can’t, or won’t want to keep up with technology, it’s time to leave academe,” ringing in my ears. I think he’s right. When you’ve decided to stop learning, it’s time to quit teaching.
So, as I write today, we are one week into the fall semester. Our GA shadowed our intrepid Senior Professors in their first several classes and took on the role of teacher for the MyEconLab portion of the classes. So far, so good! And, the unintended benefits of having our older, more seasoned colleagues invest time into MEL means that the younger generation of student GA’s have the opportunity to work with these grandparent–type folks. It touched my heart watching the young ones leading the older ones. We may never get this opportunity to close the generation gap again.