So my friend Andre Malan asked me to fill out a survey about the role of technology in my education. You should too (and if you’re going to you should do so before reading my response below).

It should be noted that my response, though written in a comical tone, is deadly serious:

What you think about Educational Technology

Survey to help me generate ideas and bring data to a talk that I am giving in Victoria. It will be live-streamed so you can see what I do with the data in the end.

On submission of this form you will receive a lot of gratitude and IOU for 2 hugs.

Basic Information

Name: Nicholas FitzGerald

Faculty: Science

Program: Cognitive Systems (Computational Intelligence)

Please Tick the educational technologies that you have used for class (either with or without being asked) at university. *

* paper
* WebCT/Vista/Blackboard
* Course Website
* Google Docs
* Facebook
* Wikis
* Blogs
* Twitter
* School Email
* calculator

Other Please list any others that you have used.

SVN <—- wooooooooo!
CS Handin
Ballpoint Pen
Fountain Pen

Disliked technology

Please list the 3 technologies from above that you disliked the most (including ones from “others”) and explain why you did not like them.

1. WebCT Vista

I COULD answer this question, but to do so thoroughly would far exceed the “approximately 4 minutes” you suggested for filling out this survey. WebCT Vista is by far the worst bit of technology I have even been forced to interact with. I say that as someone who’s used it both as a student and as a TA. Seriously. It. Sucks.
Terrible Stability. Incomprehensible UI. Way too many unnecessary features. No obvious integration with other technologies (would it be too much to ask to get an email reminding me I have an assessment due or that an assignment has been posted?). Seriously. WTF?

2. Clickers

Clickers are the worst example of the kind of crap which has come out of this new movement to make classes more “interactive”. Seriously, I go to class to be taught things, not to sit through a one-hour pop-quiz day after day after day. Here’s an idea: Instead of treating me like an elementary school kid who needs constant supervision and hand-holding to get my HW done, why don’t you give a good lecture, teach me some interesting material, and then give me an exam at the end of the term to make sure I actually took some personal responsibility for my education. Seriously. Kids these days…

3. Ballpoint Pen

These things are crap. You have to press so hard it makes your hand all tired, and by the time you’ve written a paragraph you’ve got a crippling case of carpal tunnel. Everyone thinks they’re so great because they can write under water – but can the write upside down?! No. Seriously. Ballpoint? More like FAILpoint, mirite?

Liked Technology

Please list the 3 technologies from above that you liked the most (including ones from “others”) and explain why you did not like them.

1. SVN / CS handin / ssh / pretty much anything involving commandline

Setting up an SVN server was the best thing I ever did. Makes it so much easier to coordinate my files between the 3 or 4 computers I use. No more messing around with emails etc. Plus, I feel like a bad-ass hacker every time I open a terminal and type “cd ~/school; svn update”. Same with CS handin. LOVE seeing how many tape blocks my homework used. Plus ssh tunneling is like some serious “Matrix” shit. Seriously. Chicks go wild for that kinda thing.


Best use of technology for a course I have experienced: Philosophy 441 (Philosophy of Mind) with Dr. Murat Aydede. Simple HTML page with links to necessary PDF readings. Email address to contact for clarifications. Perfection. Doesn’t need to be more complicated than that. KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID! Seriously. CSS is for chumps.

3. Fountain Pen

Once you go fountain pen you’ll never return to crappy ballpoints. This thing glides so smooth it’s like writing with melted butter (like the kind you get in that little candle-heated dish when you order crab). Plus I feel like I’m some sort of bad-ass Victorian gentleman every time I whip this thing out. Seriously. Like some serious Mr. Darcy shit up in here.

Your Dream Technology

(most important part of this whole survey…)
So if your professor could use some technology in class that would make school much better what would it be? * this can be something you know of or something made up. Sky is the limit, think outside the box, all that jazz. All I ask is that it is something that you would really, really want to use.

I really can’t think of much. The vast majority of times I’ve had some sort of opinion regarding use of technology in education, it’s usually along the lines of “I really wish this prof would stop messing around with this new-fangled edumacational gizmo and just give a good lecture”. There are a few really good examples of pedagogical tools (AISpace is great), but those are really only useful in “algorithm” type courses. Most of the time they’re just annoying and a poor substitute for a good lecture and a good textbook.

That said, my one wish is for E-readers to reach a stage where they are satisfactory substitutes for hard-copy textbooks in terms of ease-of-use, portability, durability etc.