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[xmca] Will Professors be the ice deliverymen of tomorrow? The question of professorial obsolescence

Thought that this article called for some meditation by us younger
scholars, and perhaps some discussion by young and old:

The article is a thoughtful engagement with the question of whether or not
professors will be made obsolete by online teaching at the college level.

Setting aside knee-jerk responses from this professorial hopeful, it seems
like what is needed is some good quality research on the diff between
online and co-present teaching. And, in particular, what can be taught more
effectively with online courses and with what is lost in these kinds of
learning contexts? I think Robert Lecusay (among many others) has got the
beginning of an answer to this question with his in progress dissertation
that points to the importance of bodily co-presence for the mediation of
local cultural knowledge of various sorts. This also points in the
unfortunate direction of a new kind of digital divide: when local cultural
knowledge is shared and/or relatively presupposable between folks on either
end of the on-line connection - as is the case with culturally advantaged
middle (and upper) class students - things are likely to go more smoothly.
This raises the possibility that online courses will further disadvantage
those who are already disadvantaged b.c. of the increased difficulty of
drawing on local funds of knowledge when the student's funds of knowledge
differ from those of the (mostly middle-class)  instructors. Not a pretty

On the other hand, for those students whose local cultural knowledge
matches up well with the instructor's, online learning can open up new
possibilities. I had a student last quarter who had a younger brother in
high school who did an online self homeschooling program. He would spend
his mornings doing schoolwork - finishing by noon - and would spend his
afternoon making good money as a contractor designing websites. Maybe not
quite what Marx had in mind with his idea of working at the factory in the
morning, fishing and hunting in the afternoon, and being a critical critic
in the evening, but I wonder if there isn't a way to see technology as
having a liberatory component to it and to capital-ize on it without
fetishizing it (much as Marx saw capitalism).


Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Sanford I. Berman Post-Doctoral Scholar
Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition
Department of Communication
University of California, San Diego
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