Professors and technology: a lethal combination

I am part-way through my fourth year at Laurier and I’ve had it with technology in the classroom.

And I don’t mean malfunctioning technology; I mean working, up-to-date technology.
Rather than complementing a lecture in an educational way, I can comfortably say that 90 per cent of the technologies used in the classes I have been witness to are not useful.

At best they have been pointless and at worst they have been downright distracting; however, I should add, those professors who use technology effectively the remaining 10 per cent of time deserve to be commended.

I just can’t bring myself to take notes or pay serious attention when I know perfectly well than I can download exactly what I need to know for exams from WebCT after class – or during class.
Facebook, e-mail, and the always-notorious Texts From Last Night website tend to entertain me for the duration of the class.

Many professors claim that slides are just a basic overview and are not enough to successfully complete tests.

Yet in practice, this never seems to be true (particularly if you do the assigned readings).
And to be frank, I don’t feel bad about not paying attention in these classes.

Despite all the talks I’ve heard from professors about distracting my fellow students and about not learning from the class, I feel like I’m not to blame.

If a professor’s lecture is nothing more than the textbook rehashed with provided Coles notes versions on a slide, one has to expect students to just check out.

I have also come to learn that technology isn’t just a crutch for students; it’s a crutch for professors as well.

While I understand the challenges of leading a class, it’s easy to tell when your lecturer is standing at the front and reading his or her slightly lengthened lecture slides to you.

All this being said, I’m thrilled that the university is reviewing information technology at the school.

Technology is important to learning (and teaching), and over the past year we’ve certainly seen a situation that can be improved (such as WebCT’s instability).

With improved technology, what I really hope the university community sees is an improved usage and overall acceptance that newer is not necessarily better.

University Affairs, a magazine published by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, recently published an article titled “Enjoy your last days on campus.”

It surmises that within 15 years, the most striking change to universities “will be the elimination of the physical campus.”

Laurier, at least, has had a far more practical approach to planning for the future.

The new campus master plan outlines the future for Laurier’s physical space: a distinctly different view of 2025 than the online learning one presented by the columnist in University Affairs.

And for that, I’m glad.

Hopefully, discussion and real lectures rather than point-form notes and online quizzes continue to define the university experience.

I’ve made the choice to take online courses, and beyond the convenience there is little good I can say about them; I don’t feel like I learned a great deal, I didn’t feel engaged with course material and I felt like interaction with other people in the class was strangely artificial.

I can’t imagine that this is the future of academics – even in some modified form.

So if you ever find yourself in a position – or if you are currently a professor – I implore you: don’t give in to using technology without seriously considering if it’s necessary.

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