Homer has recently been getting a lot of emails like this: “Increase Your Inbox And Received New Massage.” This was all very tempting — who doesn’t want a larger inbox or “received” a new massage? Email inboxes tend to get full, after all, and classes can be physically demanding, and Homer had long thought that a massage service for professors was something every college should look into.
Actually, colleges are providing all kinds of perks to their students (and perhaps, less clearly, to their faculty and staff as well). Consider the explosion of lazy rivers and leisure pools on university campuses. Texas Tech proudly notes that its Student Leisure Pool is one of their “premiere [sic] achievements.” It is also, they claim, the largest one of its kind on a college campus, with its centerpiece being a 645-foot long lazy river. Pictures on their website show people bobbing in the waters of the pool, under an azure sky flecked with white clouds.
Homer was impressed. After an arduous schedule of classes during the day, or perhaps between classes, the students of Texas Tech could unwind in the pool or travel lazily down the river. They could be joined by their friends and, whilst bobbing, engage in the great conversations of the day. Protests in Hong Kong. War against ISIS. An unsolved mathematical conjecture. All these could be discussed and debated and argued over from the confines of their inflatable tubes. As they splashed water on each other, or simply lay gazing on the vast cerulean expanse above, they could ponder deep thoughts,
But what was not immediately apparent in the pictures was any sign of studying. Homer put down the discrepancy to the vagaries of camera angles and light. It is not easy to show every single detail in a picture, but surely, he thought, the students in the tubes must be reading the great books of the Western canon, solving differential equations and discussing the Great Depression. They might even be writing computer code on their iPads (were they waterproof, he wondered?) or completing their history assignments. They could be doing all this under the warm Texan sun; the learning being done on the lazy river could well eclipse whatever they did in their stuffy classrooms.
Actually, why even have classrooms at Texas Tech? Homer could see the faculty joining the students in the water; as they jointly bobbed and swirled in the gently-moving waters, they could engage in fruitful discussions.
But no lectures! — those would be out, of course. In fact, in today’s world of flipped classrooms and team-based learning, lectures were already an anachronism, a pedagogical technique that was past its prime, its purveyors a disreputable lot clinging to the last vestiges of their misplaced authority in a democratic learning environment.
But, noted Homer, we can use i-clickers now! They can be used with everything — lectures, discussions, voting in faculty meetings. All kinds of pedagogy could find uses for these clickers. Every thought, every idea, every concept framed as a multiple-choice question to be answered in real time. In real time. Was there any better version of time, thought Homer?
So certain kinds of technology could find their way onto the lazy river and the leisure pool. No whiteboards, of course, but smartphones, tablets and clickers might work.
But navigating a watery course with curves and bends posed a few challenges. But these were not insurmountable. A turn here or a turn there on the lazy river might cause a momentary separation between student and professor, but soon they would come together on their inflatable tubes, and learning — glorious learning! — would resume.
And all this water-based learning under the sun would be good for the body, too. Those lacking enough Vitamin D in their diets would have to worry no longer — the constant exposure to sunlight would take care of that problem.
And then there is the physical exercise. The act of maneuvering the inflatable tubes to remain close to one another during a discussion on civil rights would breathe new life into limbs long atrophied by a sedentary lifestyle. For student and faculty alike, the Greek ideal of “mens sana in corpore sano” would be realized in the intellectual and physical exertions undertaken whilst wading in a leisure pool at Texas Tech.
Homer gazed at the email offering to increase his mailbox storage and provide a massage. He was sorely tempted, but the dubious choice of colors in the email, the spelling that required some massaging of its own, the uncertain provenance of the message (clearly it was not from his own IT department), all led him to take a pass on the “Click Here” link.