News

Grassroots communication class may soon be in the works

By: MELISSA SEYBOLDT

Staff Writer

 

What would life be like without the advanced technology our society has grown accustomed to, and somewhat infatuated with? A professor at IU South Bend has been carrying this question with him for some time, and his curiosity may lead to a class designed to answer it, at least in theory.

Senior Lecturer in Communication Arts Alec Hosterman wants to lead a class that would test students’ capacity to learn and complete assignments without the advanced technology that’s typically used in and outside of the classroom.

“I might call it something like getting back to our roots, our communication roots,” he said. “We’ve become so reliant on advanced technology that we’ve forgotten that simple technologies, like a pencil or a piece of paper, is an effective tool – just as effective as Microsoft Word.”

While there’s no official course description, Hosterman has a number of ideas in mind to replace digital with more traditional material.

“I’d probably have no PDFs – it would all be a book, or I’d give them photocopies of the readings they’d have to do. They couldn’t use any sort of digital device in the classroom – no recorders, no computers – they’d have to physically write out their notes,” he said.

Papers would either be handwritten or done using a typewriter, and one of the assignments would involve students going without as much technology as possible for a week, and writing a log of their experience.

The initial motivation for designing such a class: An article about high school students who did a project for an English class using typewriters instead of computers, and gained an appreciation for the ability to focus on their writing.
“If high school kids can do it, college students should be able to do it. Period,” Hosterman said. “I think recognizing that the tool can be replaced actually is a good thing for some people, because it brings back a reliance on ourselves.”

How much students would cut back on technology would be the main challenge.

“That’s the hard part,” he said. “When you work at a university and it says ‘E-mail is the official form of communication,’ and I’m saying ‘You can’t use technology,’ there might be a problem.”

As a result, there would be some exceptions, but students would cut back as much as they could without hampering their progress in other classes or work.

The course would be upper-level due to readings on technological determinism and theory that are “kind of weighty,” according to Hosterman. Students would study the strong grip and effects that advanced technology has on society.

The overall concept may seem like a stretch to some, but Hosterman believes students would sign up for the course regardless.

“People thought I was nuts to do a course on deception and lying, and yet it’s highly popular. So why can’t we have a class that goes back and looks at the opposite side of technology and its detriments? […] We actually did function okay way back when,” he said.

“So maybe an output of this course could very well be a better understanding of who you are as a person, and using technology not so much as a crutch but [using it] as it was designed to be.”

Hosterman said if the class becomes a reality, he would like to begin teaching it next year.

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