Let’s stop lying to our students.

Much of what we do in higher education is out of the force of habit. Call it insitutional or pedaogical inertia. One of the reasons I like to change the theme for my websites is to make myself (and others) think about what works and what doesn't with web design.

I just completed a draft of a module on what I think students should know before starting a distance digital class (which everyone calls online college). I struggled a bit when it came to several sections because there are poorly made and executed tools that students have to use successfully if they are to succeed in college. Sometimes I feel like I'm handing students a screw driver with a 45 degree angle in the shaft and then pretending that's normal and they should be able to use it without difficulty.

So much of distance digital technology is beholden to educational habit, including our use of content managment systems, our deployment of virtual meetings such as Zoom to replicate face-to-face class time, even our normalization of feature creep in software. I recently saw Apple added support for videos in the spreadsheet program, Numbers. Because when I'm hashing through data, what I need is to get rickrolled. One section of the module attempted to explain how it required 7 steps to upload a file to our LMS, and I couldn't pretend that process was well designed, so I just laid out how to do it, called it cumbersome, and moved on.

Given the disfunction in the US govertnment and global dystopia we are living through, it feels doubly disingenous to pretend that poorly designed or performing education tools aren't just that: crap. If we lie, and say, "oh yes, this is great tool and an evidence-based approach to your education" we fail ourselves and them. Instead we should acknowledge the failure and then keep going. "That's a bent screwdriver, I know, but you need to drive that screw if you are going to build this fence, so let me show you how to use it."

At least by acknoledging the failures of our own tools - including our own pedagogies - we can build trust with our students as they build their education careers. And that's whats most important part: students are still learning, still moving forward in their lives towards their degrees and certificates.