Academics and Technology: Early Adopters or Left Behind?

Alexis Carreiro, assistant professor in the Knight School of Communication, offers that the adoption of technology might be a strange marriage of Goldilocks and Marshall McLuhan: “When we rush to adopt technology, it’s too hot. When we wait awhile to adopt technology, it’s too cold. How do we adopt it so it’s just right?

We are surrounded by first-rate communication technology. How do we know when to adopt technology and how to use it in the classroom? If we don’t act as early adopters of technology, we get left-behind. But, if we adopt the wrong technology, our investment can become a short-sighted waste of time.

Today’s colloquium — sponsored by the Knight School of Communication and led by Dr. Carreiro — brought together faculty, staff and students at Queens University of Charlotte to discuss and debate the role of technology in university life.

The conversation was split on issues of timing, practice, incorporation into classrooms, and comfort level. Some participants incorporate technology into their classrooms and work life. Others shy away from it. Still others would like to explore using it, but desire the time and training to use it well.

Nevertheless, participants agreed that the role of universities, academics, researchers and students is to call for critical reflection of technology and its role in our lives.

The critical reflection on and incorporation of technology come with social and ethical imperatives. In technology, we often default to the question, “What can we do?” But the question we might more readily ask is “What should we do?” Or, how should we adopt, organize, and apply technology as a portion of our increasingly digital lives?

It is true that all technology can be used for good or ill, and that the technology itself cannot be separated from its designer, its user, and its context. These issues, which McLuhan chronicled in his work across the last half of the 20th century, concern the constant interplay between human use of technology and  technological transformation of humanity.

These ideas plague our reflective understandings of technology and leave me wondering about the timing of teaching technology skills in the educational process. Perhaps the beginning of the solution is for academics to adopt the conversation, even if all of us aren’t quite ready to adopt the technology.


  1. Very timely blog! The pace the technology is moving at today is scary. Using laptops and desktops we are seeing new operating system almost yearly. The release of the cottage industry in the handheld portable laptop is just another example. The ipad, kindle and now blackberry’s playbook. The key question as you righly pointed out is when do we start adapting. Only a few products make it big in the technology industry and if we start adapting to the wrong ones its a waste of time. I feel the right answer is to stick to big named brand such as Apple and Microsoft. Adapting to their products today is almost a certainty with their market share in the industry. However I would wait about 2-3 months after the launch of a product to see if it is worth your. 2-3 months is a good time period to judge sales and see if early adopters have actuall picked up the product.

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