"If I post a web page, anyone in the world can look at it?"I took time off from Swarthmore to live in San Francisco, amongst folks who live and breathe the internet.Some Swarthmore faculty had already taken to it - others were more reticent.
By the tune I returned to school, I was a fanatic, pitching the web to all comers.
As I become increasingly computerized, I lose track of paper silliness; I pitched the idea of posting our class syllabi online to an older professor.
At first he expressed interest in learning web weaving, agreed to some instruction. Inexplicably, he grew wary -this intimidated him, he retreated. He wanted to maintain tighter controls over the distribution of his class materials than the Internet permitted.
My eagerness clashed directly with his fear and mistrust. What I saw as an opportunity to engage the world, he must have seen as a threat to his position.
Colleges have long been a separate entity from the world they survey. In the early days of the Internet, this was the case, colleges had free reign to conduct their science and discussion in newsgroups, exchange data with room to spare. Now the lines are jammed with porno videos, and the newsgroups are filled with anarchist skate punks yearning to debunk.
The Internet's worldwide sharing is both a terrific threat and the greatest opportunity to higher education.
Near Swarthmore, the depressed community of Chester is expanding, lowering property values around the school. In a bid to maintain security and sanctity, the college is buying up surrounding properties, and trying to figure out strategies for small businesses to fill the gap left by fleeing suburbanities.
The encroaching urban poor are foremost seen as a threat. The Swarthmore space might be shared by folks who aren't qualified to occupy it, won't respect it, will bring in crime, etc.
At the same time, the area surrounding Swarthmore is more wooded than Chester, has more athletic fields, parks and even a full fledged forest preserve - Crum woods.
The students at Swarthmore travel to Chester to perform community service, soon they might not even have to leave the zip code.
The world is your classroom, but you might have unannounced visitors.