New Media From the Middle Ages To The Digital Age

new and old teaching toolsI attended an interesting lecture yesterday from a series called New Media From the Middle Ages to the Digital Age, and here are a few of my take-aways.

Peter Holland (Film, Television, and Theatre) began by giving an overview of his academic career. He noted how his technology of the time was a portable typewriter. He then went on to compare and contrast scholarship then and now. From what I could tell, he did not think there was a significant difference, with the exception of one thing — the role and definition of community. In the past community meant going to conferences and writing letters every once in a while. Now-a-days, conferences are still important, letters have been replaced by email, but things like mailing lists play a much larger role in community. This sort of technology has made it possible to communicate with a much wider audience much faster than in previously times. The SHAKSPER mailing was his best example.

The next presentation was by Elliott Visconsi (English). While the foundation of his presentation surrounded his The Tempest for iPad project, he was really focused on how technology can be used to enhance learning, teaching, and research. He believed portable Web apps represent a convergence of new and old technologies. I believe he called them “magic books”. One of his best examples is how the application can support dynamic and multiple commentaries on particular passages as well as dynamic and different ways speeches can be vocalized. This, combined with social media, give Web applications some distinct advantages over traditional pedagogical approaches.

From my point of view, both approaches have their distinct advantages and disadvantages. Traditional teaching and learning tolls are less fragile — less mutable. But at the same time they rely very much on the work of a single individual. On the the other hand, the use of new technology is expensive to create and keep up-to-date while offering a richer learning experience that is easier to use in groups. “Two heads are better than one.”

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