Profs compete for students’ attention | Tech news blog – CNET

“The most shocking part of going back to school at this point in my life (in her 30s) is looking around and realizing that nobody is in the room. The professor is just another open browser window, 1 of 10.”

Profs compete for students’ attention | Tech news blog – CNET

Part of my role as Coordinator for Learning Technologies at Plymouth State University is to work with our faculty in adapting to the new technologies that permeate our campus. While this quote from a recent CNet News article is nothing new, it is a reminder that just as technology is changing the way we communicate, it is also affecting the way that we teach. As evidenced by the quote above from Sharyl Grant, a non-trad student at UNC, technology is changing the way we interact even in the physical realm. When the “professor is just another open browser window,” is that a function of technology or rather a dysfunction of our teaching practice? K-12 teachers have grown up In an age of multiple intelligences and learning styles, differentiated instruction and Bloom’s Taxonomy. Yet in higher ed where we often still practice the lecture to learn, drill and kill, one-sided conversation/passive consumption methodology of information dissemination, can we really blame technology for a lack of student engagement or is it just another outlet (like doodling and note passing) for those stifled minds who reject passive learning and are seeking an opportunity for engagement?

Image courtesy of DavidDMuirLaptops in lecutre by DavidDMuir

There are typically three schools of thought that seem to be prevalent. The first is the desire for an outright ban on laptop and mobile use in the classroom. Those faculty in this camp feel that their students should be focused entirely on what is being lectured and that technology serves only as a distraction to their learning. The second perspective is to simply ignore the technology use and pretend that it isn’t there, to teach around it. The last perspective is to embrace technology use and leverage it to make the class more engaging – integrating technology into their learning experience.

Now, integrating technology into the classroom experience at the higher ed level can be challenging and often means more preparatory work, and yet it has the potential to be far more engaging than the relatively static experience of lectures, overheads and PowerPoint presentations. Consider the opportunities for learning we could create if we tap our students’ affinity for technology by challenging them in class to find and share appropriate and timely references, news briefs, videos or lectures on our subject matter. Imagine if we showed our students how technology can serve them, rather than the other way around.

The 21-st century treats knowledge and information as currency and those who can effectively acquire, process and synthesize that knowledge into actionable projects and tangible results will be far better prepared for the world they will enter.

John Multitasking

The image above is a screenshot of the resources I was utilizing to create this blog post. I tossed out a call for image resources to my Twitter network. I was searching for Creative Commons licensed images on Flickr. I was composing my post in my Flock (web browser) editor with my Google Reader RSS feeds in the background. My feeds are what turned me on to this article and got me thinking about writing this post. Imagine the power of harnessing these resources to improve our classroom experience. What would a higher ed classroom look like if our students were actually engaged in the learning process, rather than sitting in their lecture seats as passive vessels? As web browsing becomes resource hunting, as personal Instant Messaging gave way to consulting one’s personal learning network, as students become partners instead of problems.

If the professor is simply browser window 1 of 10, the question then becomes this:

“Is the professor allowing this to occur because they have not created and drawn their students into an actively engaged learning community?”

Neither ignoring nor banning technology use will engage your students as effectively as embracing it and harnessing it for productive means. And embracing technology does not require that professors be tech experts, the students have that down. Professors just need to do what they’ve always done: share, guide, challenge and refine. They’re just doing it with more support and far greater resources than they’ve had in the past.

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4 thoughts on “Profs compete for students’ attention | Tech news blog – CNET

  1. Nice post. I’m in the k12 word and think that in some ways our paths are parallel. As we figure out how to use tech to teach our students to be learners, colleges will face audiences of students learning with those tools either with the professor or in spite of him.
    I love this statement “The 21-st century treats knowledge and information as currency and those who can effectively acquire, process and synthesize that knowledge into actionable projects and tangible results will be far better prepared for the world they will enter.” Technology lets us do this through colllaboration across timezones and knowledge levels. It gives us tools to make the research and learning process transparent. It provides greater opportunities for meaningful feedback so students can take their learning deeper, faster.
    Thanks for the post.

  2. I find this to be thought provoking. Has technology become the note passing, doodling of the modern era? I know that I personally can remember writing a plethora of notes and doodles in classes that I found to be less than stimulating in high school. I do know that while to some it may seem that students that are multi tasking are off-task I believe that there are people that function better in a multi-tasking environment. Perhaps texting in class is a form of engagement? I do think that the three schools of thought are pretty accurate. I don’t see the point in banning technology. I think that will just backfire, and honestly with the amount of potential it has to engage students and the fact that technology is not going anywhere and by ignoring it we are not doing our jobs as educators. We are not completely preparing our students to use the tools that they will need to be successful in the future. Ignoring it? Does that really accomplish anything? I love idea of integrating technology in course to engage students. This hierarchy connects perfectly with the discussion we had the first night of class as well. Personally, I know that I learn more when I am an active participant in my learning. Discovering information on my own, analyzing it, and applying it to the concepts we are learning in class solidifies concepts in my consciousness.

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