Predicting the Future of College Teaching: Robo Adjuncts & GPS Student Trackers


Tinsley By Ron Tinsley
Since we are coming to the end of the end of this decade and with the end of the world looming (have you seen the movie about global cataclysm, 2012?), I want to list some things that I think adjunct instructors should watch closely. This info is gleaned from rubbing elbows with professors and talking to students. I also try to be discerning about the past, present and future. Oh, there is one other influence: science fiction and fantasy. A cursory look through movies in this genre reveals futuristic thinking that could impact the college classroom.
(I saw the iPad on Star Trek years ago, wink, wink). 
#1 Robo Adjunct
With the advent of teleconferencing and online videoconferencing, distance education tools are becoming very common. Universities and colleges are establishing satellite sites and allowing their professors to be beamed through the Internet to a classroom halfway across the world. All you need to do is find a location, add a dash of wired/wireless technology, add a Dean and stir. Soon, will you just program a talking head (what about Max Headroom?) to speak to your students in Aruba and Dubai while you are preparing for the next class. With holographic technology developing, can the holographic ‘me’ can just present to the class onscreen? This technology is already being used…by churches! (Can you believe it? Google it!)
#2 Smart Touch Screen Power Point
The movie Minority Report starring Tom Cruise illustrated the best kind of touch screen technology before it was invented. He could enlarge, shrink, go in other files as if he was using a mouse on a computer screen. Although touch screen technology (TST) is not new, Apple’s iPhone made it cool and mainstream. TST in the past involved part of the monitor being a touch screen. I saw it used on ATM machines in the early 1990s. (One icky thing about it was they did not clean the screen reguarly resulting in dirt smudges that probably made peope fearful of germs). Right now, you may be thinking I am talking about a smartboard. No, I am a referring to is what Google and many other forward thinking companies are trying to do now: anticipate your needs on their search engines or social networking sites before you even make them known. So while I am doing a touchscreen powerpoint on education for my class, maybe a link pops up suggesting relevant content based on the PowerPoint?
#3 The Eye Computer Screen
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, they encountered a hostile alien species called The Borg. They were a cybernetic species that would assimilate other groups in the name of improving them. One of their physical make-ups was an eyepiece that worked like a computer screen. When they viewed their surroundings, it looked like a pilot simulation game. Laptops are becoming a staple in schools, and laptops are getting smaller and smaller. Can you imagine being able to look at your professor with one eye while the other is looking at a small glass the size of an eyeglass lens? That’s your computer. (Honestly, I don’t know the physiological impact of this. I just know that my eyes hurt when I squint too much.)
 #4  Pocket Size Projectors
They exist. Read about them here. I regularly use a LCD projector to display my videos and powerpoints. Fifteen years ago, they were the size of a mini-refrigerator. In the movie Star Wars, they used these projectors to show a holographic version of the person communicating a message. Students could actually come up front and do a short presentation. Honestly, if I had this technology, I would probably send humorous messages to friends. Can you see the potential for this technology for education…and humor? I can!!!
#5 GPS Student Tracker
Although this has First Amendment violation written all over it, you can actually do this if you have your student’s phone numbers, and they have their GPS turned on. This can verify the location of your students if they are late or absent from class. (If they are on the subway, forget it). This technology cuts down on lame excuses for missing class. You know what? Forget I even suggested this. In Pennslvania, there was a case of a school spying on its students through the laptops given them. This did not go over well. This has Big Brother written all over it! However, it’s tempting given the sheer number of lame excuses we all get from our students, right?
#6  Video Insertion
Green Screen effects are very popular in action, science fiction and fantasy movies. The Matrix Trilogy pioneered effects whereby you can make a person look like they are at a location that is projected on a green screen behind them. In the 90s, this technology was used in the Forrest Gump movie when they showed flashbacks of Forrest meeting world leaders. As someone who has a graphic design background, I specialize in outing commercials that use green screen effects. Beware, there are political ads using this tactic now. Just like computer-generated images (CGI), this technology can blur the line between fantasy and reality. But what I am thinking about is being able to go inside my own PowerPoint/video during class to point out something the students should focus on. I could actually do that now with Adobe Flash and Final Cut Pro, but I cannot do it in real time. 
Don’t call me a futurist. I have just been around technology too long and seen too many movies! I also know that has new innovations take place, adjuncts are in the best position to take advantage of these tools. Why? Because we don’t have tenure and it is in our best interests to look more attractive to colleges and universities by learning these tools. Tune in next week for more predictions. In the meantime, how about sharing your own predictions? Where do you think the profession is going technologically speaking? I’d like to know.
 About the Adjunct: Ron Tinsley is a Communications Director by day and an Adjunct Instructor by night. He teaches classes on Urban Youth Culture, Media Literacy and Urban Studies. He has a BFA in Graphic Design from The University of the Arts in a MA in Urban Studies from Eastern University. For the past 20 years, he has worked with children, youth and families in disadvantaged communities. He is fearfully entertaining the idea of getting a Ph.D.

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