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Monday, January 6, 2014

Technology in the Classroom: Changes for the Better?

Andy Wang & Jeffrey Chong

Students’ behavior is changing as technology becomes more advanced. Compared with students ten or even twenty years ago, students nowadays are less focused and care less about their classes.

Back ten or even twenty years ago, college was the real deal. That is, students studied hard, and teachers used only a textbook and a slide projector to teach. Teachers taught fast, and sometimes even skipped few chapters to finish a book in a single semester. Teachers let students study those skipped chapters by themselves and sometimes even asked students to write a report or an essay about them. Moreover, everything taught (or untaught) would be covered on the midterm and final exams.

In this kind of harsh learning environment, some students could not understand what their professors were trying to teach them. However, some students still managed to take notes and even to learn well. Those who could not understand the lecture might be distracted or lose interest in the class; others might day dream or sleep during class.

Nowadays, teaching styles have been changed quite a bit. We still learn from textbooks, but our textbooks now contain more charts, illustrations, and information. These improvement help students understand tough lectures more easily. Also, teachers summarize key points for students. Through academic tests or paper work, teachers get to know how well students learn in class. On top of that, teachers use other ways to make learning easier for students, such as by using PowerPoint presentations, videos, and computer software. Teachers use PowerPoint to make their lectures easier for students to understand and use video to introduce examples and illustrations. In engineering courses, teachers might even use engineering software to explain or calculate results for textbook examples.

While teacher are trying their best to attract students or make things easier, some students show no interest in their classes. Many, if they are not sleeping or daydreaming, are using their modern technology to check their email, post messages to their Facebook pages, and play online games.

As technology has become more advanced, teaching styles and students’ behavior have changed. You might expect that students would be better than before since our teaching environment has improved so much. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. While teachers use technology to try to make hard tasks easier for students to learn in class, too many students are using their technology (even during class time) for entertainment. We hope that one day students will learn a simple, low-tech lesson: work hard, play hard – and know when to do which.  

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