Integrating the Synchronous into the Asynchronous

Those who resist the use of new tools in teaching and learning often do so based on the idea that mediated communication technologies are inauthentic means of engaging the human person.  What they mean, I’ve come to notice, is not that they’re seeking face-to-face interaction in every communicative instance but that they’re seeking synchronous interaction as a more authentic engagement than asynchronous interaction. 

To give you an example, right now, you’re watching a video of my speaking to you, but you have no way of interrupting me (aside from turning me off or pausing me) and no way to influence the direction or course of my argument through immediate dialogue.  Like Socrates in his discussion with Phaedrus, you note that no matter your objections the text (in this case the videograph) continues on in its pre-programmed manner thereby impeding social communion rather than facilitating it.

In my previous post, I noted that sometimes face-to-face is necessary for technical explanations of things – dialogue, after all, is a way we can seek common meanings to work through misunderstandings derived from equivocations that might result from the separation of communicants.  This is the main reason each of the faculty participants has been provided a personal tutor who can provide 24 face-to-face contact hours facilitating his or her study over the next eight weeks.

One of the questions we have to ask ourselves as we begin the course, then, is how do we functionally integrate a sense of face-to-face (that is, a sense of synchronicity) within the often asynchronous environment of cyberspace.

June 3, 2007