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Should Professors Be Required To Teach With Tech?

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the or-required-to-teach-with-guns dept.

Education 319

An anonymous reader writes "Are professors who don't update their teaching methods like doctors who fail to keep up with the latest ways to treat disease? Or are professors better off teaching old-school? From the article: 'It is tough to measure how many professors teach with technology or try other techniques the report recommends, such as group activities and hands-on exercises. (Technology isn't the only way to improve teaching, of course, and some argue that it can hinder it.) Though most colleges can point to several cutting-edge teaching experiments on their campuses, a recent national assessment called the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement suggests that old-school instruction remains the norm. Only 13 percent of the professors surveyed said they used blogs in teaching; 12 percent had tried videoconferencing; and 13 percent gave interactive quizzes using 'clickers,' or TV-remotelike devices that let students respond and get feedback instantaneously. The one technology that most teachers use regularly — course-management systems — focuses mostly on housekeeping tasks like handing out assignments or keeping track of student grades.'"

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Yes. (2, Insightful)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101516)

Yes. Not because it's inherently better (it's not), but because it's what students can expect to be exposed to for the rest of their lives/careers. So they might as well become used to it.

Re:Yes. (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101574)

Until the day you have "Woah, I know kungfu!" tech :).

Re:Yes. (3, Insightful)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101700)

It is inherently better. If you're spending half the lecture writing something on the board that could very well be flashed up there in an instant using PowerPoint or similar, you're wasting the students time.

Teaching Gimmicks and the decline of teaching (5, Insightful)

Confused (34234) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101772)

It is inherently better. If you're spending half the lecture writing something on the board that could very well be flashed up there in an instant using PowerPoint or similar, you're wasting the students time.

Well, to optimise it further, he just could give you the title and the page of the text book and save everyone to make and display power point slides. Unfortunately, most students are too lazy or too stupid to learn on their own and need someone to do the song and the dance going with the lesson. In the end, it doesn't really matter of the dance is writing on a chalk board or putting everyone to sleep with power point slides, the technology used has nothing to do with the learning success.

I would go so far to say, that someone who can't teach without technology gimmicks is a bad teacher. All the best teachers I met, didn't need it, although some of them liked to used it.

Re:Teaching Gimmicks and the decline of teaching (4, Insightful)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101832)

On the one hand you talk of good and bad teachers, on the other you seem to say that the only reason we need teachers rather than text books is that "students are too lazy or too stupid to learn on their own".

I certainly can't get as good a grasp from a book as I can from an attentive lecturer who can explain something in several different ways, all the while gauging the response of the students.

Re:Teaching Gimmicks and the decline of teaching (5, Funny)

tsm_sf (545316) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101850)

Unfortunately, most students are too lazy or too stupid to learn on their own and need someone to do the song and the dance going with the lesson.

Yeah, like those shiftless fuckers in first grade. We should let the free market sort this out.

Re:Yes. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33101774)

Depends on what is being written. If you're just putting up notes for the students to copy, then sure; if you are using the board for interaction, powerpoint may not be the way to go. Using powerpoint puts you on rails, so to speak. You have to do things in the order that they come up in the slides, rather than letting ideas unfold naturally. When you write stuff down by hand, you can do it in any order. Ideally you will be able to do both (having both a blackboard and projector) but many modern University classrooms are set up such that deploying the projector means covering up the only blackboard in the room. Moreover, if you forgo writing things down on the board (due to not having a blackboard) and simply talk about important ideas, many students will not bother to remember those things because they have come to expect what is on the powerpoint is all they need to know (or are unfamiliar with how to determine what is important information out of a speech).

Re:Yes. (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101776)

Indeed. But I don't think going interactive using technology will work well in front of 100 or so people, because the technology is made for facalitating interaction between two people or maybe a bot more, not for having interaction with a whole group. So for interaction with individual people some new technologies might be good, but they will also be very very time-consuming for the teacher. In other words: teachers shouldn't use technology because it seems cool, but because it saves them and the students time.

Re:Yes. (4, Insightful)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101782)

If your tech tool is PowerPoint then you are on the road to fail.

Re:Yes. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33101784)

It is worse. Instead of a detailed discussion, these PowerPoint slides give bulleted lists. A projector or a chalkboard is much better, especially for science and engineering courses. In those courses you would typically have read the text and handouts and the lecture would step you through the reasoning. Each step you would have to pay attention to understand the logical progression. This is certainly not true with PowerPoint.

Re:Yes. (5, Insightful)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101810)

I've found that when lecturers choose to write by hand rather than use PowerPoint, it helps keep the pace at a level where one can fully absorb the information.

Although it's not an inherent problem of the technology, having long, complex equations on pre-made slides does make it all too easy even for very good lecturers to skip over pieces of explanation or leave the students concentrating on one part and therefore missing another. When the professor is limited to handwriting speed (and also a sequential structure) they tend to do a much better job of explaining each part as it is written.

Re:Yes. (1)

Sigma 7 (266129) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101846)

It is inherently better. If you're spending half the lecture writing something on the board that could very well be flashed up there in an instant using PowerPoint or similar, you're wasting the students time.

Tech is not better if it isn't used properly. In particular, Powerpoint slides basically anchor the focus on exactly one frame; students are forced to do a synchronized note taking and basically have to treat the entire slide as important, and might not have enough time to pay attention to what the teacher is saying. If using a whiteboard, students can copy down major information first, and worry on whether or not they can copy down individual examples.

Some courses require tech, and there's no way around that. Some students may prefer using tech for their learning, and that's their opinion. However, plopping tech unnecessarily is more of a subversion to education.

I've had experience with some tech-assisted education. I don't remember the name of it, but it had an automated system for generating answers to a multiple-choice math question. You could tell the right answer without doing the math required for it, defeating the purpose of the question(s).

Re:Yes. (1)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101860)

It's a tool; it cannot be inherently better. If any tool is misused, because the user doesn't know it, it's worse than a lesser tool used correctly.

If the teacher is better with tech, they should use tech. If the teacher isn't good at teaching either way, or is in any other way equal between the two, you might as well have them use tech. If you try to and force someone who's actually very good at teaching with a chalkboard, etc, to adapt themselves to technology, you will probably screw up their teaching style and their rhythm, and the students won't benefit.

And this IS about the students, so results matter more than what you intended to happen when you made the rules.

Re:Yes. (5, Informative)

Pixie_From_Hell (768789) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101862)


I teach math at a decent university, and I could teach a semester's worth of material in one class using PowerPoint. Nobody would learn anything, of course. But speaking as a math teacher, it's really easy to go far too fast using things like PowerPoint.

I teach with a lot of the techniques they're talking about (group activities, hands-on exercises), but I really don't want to use presentation software like PowerPoint. I'm willing to bet a lot that a student that has written down a couple of examples from the board is better off than one who has seen the same example projected on a screen.

Finally, the technology the article mentions include blogs, videoconferencing, and "clickers". I've avoided clickers mostly by teaching in small classes, but I can see their use as instant feedback. But blogs? Do my calculus students really want to read a blog I write?

Re:Yes. (4, Insightful)

shrimppesto (766285) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101870)

Because delivering information at the highest blazing speeds possible is inherently good teaching...? Seriously?

I have learned a lot more from talented teachers wielding a piece of chalk than from the drones who clicked through 90 packed slides in 50 minutes. PowerPoint is a great way to put your audience into information overload, ensuring that they learn nothing (google "Death by PowerPoint"). Good chalkboard management is much harder to do. I am not saying that PowerPoint can't be used effectively, and I do believe that all of these tech devices add to the learning experience when wielded skillfully and in the appropriate scenarios. But to suggest that teaching by PowerPoint is inherently better? No. No. NO.

It's not the technology that matters. It's the quality of the teaching. Good teachers remain good teachers even when the power goes out. Bad teachers remain bad teachers no matter how much tech (ppt, ARS, web stuff, whatever) they use.

Re:Yes. (2, Insightful)

strength_of_10_men (967050) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101908)

I disagree. To pharase a quote applied to statistics: some use tech as a drunk uses a light post; for support rather than illumination.

the good teachers will rarely need more than a chalkboard and the best will rarely need even that. But throw all the tech you want at a bad teacher and they will still be crap.

Re:Yes. (1)

zwei2stein (782480) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101702)

Those things are worthless for practical life or career (voting with stuff on interactive thingy) or simply pointless (teachers blog, really?), so i am afraid you do not have much point. It belongs more into elementary school where you teach 10 year olds about wikis and thats about it.

Best teachers that I met were passionate about their subjects, could sell that passion and had at least some charisma and practical experinece to round it all up. Nothing beats making students dig deep into subject because you convinced them that it is cool. And that is something you can not really put into blog post.

In fact, technology stands in way of that and as it adds layers into communication.

Re:Yes. (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101762)

I'm a historian, clickers, blogs, VTC does not enhance a book, manuscript, image or interview with a witness.

As someone who studies the Great Plains Indians and the Northern Great Plains Indian Wars, VTC, blogs, clickers and interactive quizzes will never be important.

Re:Yes. (1)

LinuxIsGarbage (1658307) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101962)

What is a VTC?

Its not always needed (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101524)

Tech isn't always needed, for example, my history lectures didn't need VTC, interactive quizzes, or blogs.

Technology doesn't always need to be used.

Re:Its not always needed (4, Insightful)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101576)

I wouldn't want to take a math (or programming, for that matter) class that didn't have a big whiteboard in the room. Nothing beats the interactivity of a teacher with chalk in his hand.

Re:Its not always needed (5, Funny)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101864)

Note: if your teacher is using chalk in a room equipped with a large whiteboard, it may be a good time to double check their technological competence.

Re:Its not always needed (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101866)

Maybe when we finally have an interactive whiteboard that doesn't suck. Not to fill it with gimmicks but to provide small, useful tools like fast cleaning, recording, moving parts of the text/drawings, etc.

Re:Its not always needed (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101656)

And adding them in takes time to do right, and there is no point in doing it wrong, especially for older profs who won't have time to get it right.

Honestly, none of the 'tech' mentioned in article are broadly applicable. Interactive 'clickers' cost money, regularly don't work, are easily lost, and are a nightmare to manage, there's no easy way to detect mistake with them, and are only useful in large first year type classes. Not that they're really useful there, but they look like they'd be useful so profs try it, and then people like me have to figure out how to cope with them not working regularly. Oh and did I mention they cost money? Which we make students buy, who may not use the stupid thing ever again.

Group activities and so on are fine, if you have time. My undergrad (theoretical physics), most classes were 3 hours of lecture, 3 hours of lab per week (that's time with a TA/instructor), comp sci, where I am now as a PhD student, has 3 hours of lecture, 2 hours of lab in some first year courses and virtually no labs later. Group activities in class are slow as molasses, and waste time you could be well, covering content, which students are expected to know. As always in school, with a group activity it's usually one person or a small subset of a group that actually does the work. They're suitable for lab sessions, assuming you don't need 2 hours and 45 minutes of focus to take data (which happens occasionally but not usually).

Video conferencing is situational. Where it's useful, it's really useful, but normally it's of no value. I've taken courses while physical at one university from another (at University of guelph, course taught at waterloo), and at several places I've been they have 'distance' ed courses. But with enough students you don't want them, on an individual basis trying to conference call with you, you want them in class, focused on the class.

Lots of these 'technologies' you could try, I would call 'distractions', and think are better left out of classrooms. They're distractions in the real world too, but there it's up to your boss to worry about how much time you're actually working or not. In academia we don't want to facilitate the students distracting themselves, that seems counter productive. The technology I use when teaching is I give students powerpoint slides in advance, and then use a tablet to annotate the slides, and work problems etc, (and make corrections) in class, so the students are 'following along' with the notes, they have to at least read them a bit. It's not ideal but there's a lot of stuff in comp sci notes, especially when you're doing computer graphics that you can't reproduce in real time in front of them (actually correct code, diagrams that sort of thing).

In short... (2, Insightful)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101526)


Teachers should not be required to teach tech. The only areas I can see where tech would help things are in engineering or science classes. But even in a science class, you are just using a computer as a data-logger, that's it. Math shouldn't be using tech, as the students should be learning how to do the math without the tech. Computers only help out in crazy high level classes where you have to start doing things like matrix manipulations, etc. Do I care that my teacher does or doesn't have a blog? No, that's silly. If they want to post office hours on a website, fine, go right ahead. Video-conferencing? Practically worthless in the teaching environment.

Re:In short... (2, Insightful)

siwelwerd (869956) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101628)

Computers only help out in crazy high level classes where you have to start doing things like matrix manipulations, etc.

That's not exactly 'crazy high level'. Matrix Algebra is usually a sophomore level class, and a watered down one at that.

Re:In short... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33101756)

I actually found graphing calculators to be extremely useful in even high school level math. Being able to visualise equations made things a lot easier, and they're also great for matrices and the like.

Re:In short... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33101886)

You are correct; for those who are not taught how to visualize equations, and therefore need technological help for visualizing 3rd degree polynomials and sine functions, graphic calculators are useful. And for people who are not potty trained, diapers are a wonderful thing.

Grow up. The point of taking math classes is to learn how to do things yourself.


Re:In short... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33101830)

In my school district there was a consortium of high schools (four iirc) which used video conferencing for Chinese classes. They did this because individually none of them could justify a teacher, but together they could.

It's the only instance I can think of where video conferencing makes sense. I don't think this applies to professors in college because I don't think colleges tend to share professors, but it seems vaguely worth noting.

Re:In short... (2, Interesting)

gartogg (317481) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101914)

My Fiance will be taking her senior level engineering classes remotely, because smaller schools don't offer all the classes larger ones do, and with the sate university system, it makes more sense for the one largest school in the state to offer the elective in biomedical engineering or even the required vibrations and controls classes than to attempt to have it taught for the 2 students a year who want to take it locally.

So there is a slightly less vague support of the argument.

No!! (4, Insightful)

fluch (126140) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101532)

There is no sense in demanding "tech" to be included for what ever reason! Just because "tech" is used does not make a lecture better.

Re:No!! (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101556)

sure there is when there is $$$$$ or even $$$$$$$ to be made selling "clickers" and other such horseshit to admins who don't undderstand how useless it is.

Re:No!! (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101638)

Some educational tech is quite reasonably priced(the various FOSS CMSes are really priced to move); but you can pay ~$3,000 [] to kit out a 24 seat classroom with a set of IR clickers.

Mind you, these suckers are the lowest rung on the totem pole of clicker tech. Almost exactly the same IR setup found in a dollar store TV remote; but with device IDs to allow the receiver to distinguish multiple units.

At least the software is still a pile of unstable crap that takes ~60 seconds to start up on a reasonably modern C2D with a couple of gigs of RAM and crashes uncomfortably frequently...

Re:No!! (1)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101688)

Uh... we use something called i<clicker. It costs like 20 bucks for a wand (and the university store sells them at 30 dollars to students... of course). The support software/hardware is like a hundred bucks per prof or something. Haven't really had any problems with them.

Re:No!! (2, Insightful)

Manip (656104) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101652)

Exactly. We've had an entire generation who are obsessed with throwing technology at schools and expecting magical results based on that alone without any real logical explanation as to how that is meant to work. I think technology is just a very cheap, very neat, action that legislators can take, they can say "I've put $100,000 into improving standards at our schools."

I think the article's author just lacks imagination, or is unwilling to suggest things that would actually improve education simply because they would be far too expensive and difficult. For example they could increase teacher pay or introduce a bonus scheme encouraging good teachers but that would be far more costly in the medium and long term than for example a one off $100,000 that looks great on the headlines.

Re:No!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33101680)

There's good evidence to be had that tech actually makes most classes worse.

Re:No!! (2, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101686)

The problem is that often, when "tech" is used, it doesn't make the lecture better : it makes it obsolete.

Re:No!! (1)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101732)

The problem is that often, when "tech" is used, it doesn't make the lecture better : it makes it obsolete.

Maybe if the handout is an exact copy of everything the lecturer says.

If you're going to a lecture just for the handouts/notes, you're going for the wrong reasons.

And if all the lecture consists of is an exact copy of the handouts, the lecturer is teaching for the wrong reasons.

Re:No!! (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101754)

Nonsense! Tech should be included in everything. I'm still trying to figure out how to modernize my silverware, though. I've tried lots of electronic improvements, but they keep failing (and shocking my tongue when I eat). Spoons and forks are just so old-fashioned, darn it.

Re:No!! (2, Insightful)

dcmoebius (1527443) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101910)

I can't agree with this more strongly.

Technology can be a useful addition to a lecture, but it doesn't ALWAYS add value.

The most engaging, informative CS courses I ever took involved nothing more than the instructor using a blackboard. Some of the worst on the other hand, came as a result of poorly applied tech.

Only results should matter (1, Flamebait)

CityZen (464761) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101540)

Not the methods.

In short... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33101552)

In short, yes.

Teachers need to embrace the digital age. Are you going to be sick, late, etc? Give me an option to get a text message and an email. Does your course absolutely require me to be in a seat? If not, let met telecommute. I could go on...

Technology is not the answer (4, Insightful)

PrecambrianRabbit (1834412) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101564)

Teaching is fundamentally a human activity. The best way to ensure quality teaching is to hire good teachers. A crappy teacher who keeps a class blog or uses videoconferencing is still a crappy teacher. A good teacher who stands in front of the class and engages the students using nothing more than chalk and a blackboard is still a good teacher.

Technology is all but irrelevant here, but it's trendy to propose it as a way to improve education because it skirts the real issue of hiring excellent teachers, and allows administrators to throw money at the problem in the form of tech budgets.

Re:Technology is not the answer (2, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101650)

Technology is a just tool. Knowing how to use it, and knowing how to teach could enhance a lot what you can do as teacher. And there are some difficulties at teaching that are more related to expressing yourself than knowing about the topic, so giving you another way to express yourself could turn a "bad" teacher into one that now could deliver his message. Of course, bad teachers with no clue about how to teach will still be bad. And good teachers with no clue on technology could get a degradation in how they teach if they are more busy trying to make the tech work than trying to actually teach.

In the end, is up to the teacher to decide if the technology could be useful or not. Forbidding or forcing to use tech is bad, but just having the tech available and letting the teacher decide, try, or learn about it won't hurt, and could give good reward at the end.

Re:Technology is not the answer (2, Informative)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101664)

Yes, yea and yes!

And to add, the tech just adds more costs. The costs of education are spiraling up - especially college - and adding technology is only accelerate that increase.

The article sounds like they're adding tech for the sake of adding tech.

"Most of those changes are almost impossible to make without technology," he says. "Technology becomes the handmaiden of the change."

I completely disagree with that statement.

When I was an undergrad, microfiche was it. We were taught how to use that. Now everything is digital. So I ended up having to learn that. But didn't change was how to do the research.

The technology is irrelevant.

Writing code with pencil and paper... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33101566)

...really sucks. I'd like to see more schools adopt testing methods that allow students to write code during exams the way that code is meant to be written - with a computer!

Re:Writing code with pencil and paper... (1)

Manip (656104) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101660)

I cannot tell if this is sarcasm. What school makes people write code on paper? I've literally never seen that (at least "real code" obviously algorithm design and maths).

Re:Writing code with pencil and paper... (2, Informative)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101708)

Middlesex County College NJ, and Devry NJ, just to name two I know.

Re:Writing code with pencil and paper... (3, Interesting)

shrimppesto (766285) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101932)

Several years ago, when I was taking an intro CS course at Stanford (106X), our exams were on paper and we had to code our responses by hand. There would be a problem to solve at the top of an otherwise blank page, and the rest of the page was where you could "code." Certain caveats were allowed (no declaring variables, etc.), but apart from that it had to be functional code. The point was to test your understanding of the elementary concepts, and how to implement them in a non-hackish manner. It was hard, but it was also a great mental exercise in design. To be fair, I think we could have done something similar by computer (take away the compiler, or something). I have no idea what they are using now.

From time to time, I still pseudo-code on paper. Helps to sort out an overall approach to a problem.

Re:Writing code with pencil and paper... (2, Insightful)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101684)

One day, you'll be working on a project and you'll be in a restaurant. While sitting there, the solution to a problem you've been struggling with will pop in your head. All you'll have is a napkin and a pen.

Re:Writing code with pencil and paper... (1)

Kashell (896893) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101726)

oh wait, I have my iPad and iPhone.

Re:Writing code with pencil and paper... (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101928)

That'll be an algorithm in pseudo-code, not actual code. I had teachers who discounted points to people who got the order of the arguments to standard library methods wrong.

No (1)

shriphani (1174497) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101570)

I've seen profs use tablet PCs and every other dumb tool and the unanimous opinion of teachers and students alike is that overhead projectors and powerpoint are good enough for most teaching. Anything else accomplishes nothing extra but costs more $$.

See what they think. (0, Offtopic)

wjh31 (1372867) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101572)

By all means introduce those in education to new and innovative methods in teaching, be it tech based or otherwise. Show them how it works, how to use it, and the benefits of using those methods.

However, leave it at their discretion to decide if method/tech X is suitable for their classroom. That they are on your payroll suggests you trust them to make such decisions.

Silly (4, Insightful)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101580)

Requiring Professors to teach by certain techniques is certainly going to lead to disaster. While in surgery, newer procedures are almost always a measurable improvement over previous procedures in some way (time, cost, success rate, whatever), I feel it that its simply too difficult to quantify the 'success' of various techniques. Especially when the success depends so much on the course material, professors, and the students. For example, I could hardly imagine Calculus I being improved with video conferencing or blogs.

What benefit would forcing professors to teach integration with powerpoints bring? If anything, I believe there are entire concepts which are better taught on a chalkboard, not with powerpoints or slides. Things where the process matters (like integration, or physics problems) where simply seeing the steps laid out before you seems to miss out on some of the 'magic'. I really feel this because I've just completed a term where I had a calc prof teaching all on chalkboard, and a physics prof who had most of the material laid out in powerpoint, and would fall back to the board when asked a question, or having to elaborate.

There is nothing wrong with encouraging profs to try something new. Provide them with resources and information on new ways to teach. Don't force them. You'll likely just end up with a bunch of profs pissed off at the university admin, and classfuls of bored students.

That said, I do find the use of the clickers really useful. I do wish more courses/profs used them.

Bad analogy alert... (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101582)

The "doctors" analogy seems dangerously weak. In theory, when a new drug/surgery/device comes out, it has undergone an FDA approval process, which includes a bunch of safety and efficacy testing. The process is imperfect, and can be marred by relatively small sample sizes, or shenanigans on the part of companies who really want to sell new, shiny, patented stuff, rather than generic old stuff; but it theoretically provides a degree of assurance that newer offers at least some improvements, at least in some situations. Therefore, a doctor who isn't aware of the new stuff is pretty clearly inferior to one who is.

Educational technology, on the other hand, is required to undergo precisely no testing of any kind(aside from basic electrical safety and not catching fire type stuff), and frequently receives very little. The vendor is always terribly enthusiastic, of course, and there may or may not be a study or two of dubious quality; but the adoption is driven much more by optimism and hype than by data. Since there is pitifully little testing, the idea that newer=better is largely nonsense.

As TFA notes, certain technologies that are more or less unequivocally superior have been widely adopted by all but the most fossilized. CMSs beat the hell out of distributing photocopies and shuffling paper. They have largely replaced the distribution of photocopied stuff, with the common exception of the near-ceremonial "handing out of the syllabus on the first day". Similarly, computers are largely superior to typewriters for working with text, and both are more legible by far than handwriting, so most documents are now written on a computer(though, for markup/editing/grading, handwriting is still competitive).

If you are going to "require" something, you had better have good reason to believe that it is the better way to go.

No. (3, Interesting)

Manip (656104) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101584)

No. There has been tons of research in this area and none has been very positive to technology.

On a much more personal and anecdotal note, I have taken classes at a "modern" college that did everything using IT (*in an IT course no less) and I've also taken courses where they used a black/white board, and I learned much more in the latter. Further, I believe that a teacher who has a poor grasp of the technology they're using just should skip it - nothing worse than some idiot putting 100% of their course material into PowerPoint and assuming that is enough.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33101800)

I concur. I find that the pace of learning when the professor uses a chalkboard is the most important aspect of it. With Powerpoint, professors have the tendency to rush through the material. That's ok for the visual learners, but for auditory learners such as myself, the pacing is a little fast. But If there was one technology that was forced upon the higher education community, i would have to argue for smart boards. Smart boards are basically chalkboards that have the ability to save everything written on them. They used them at my high school, and it was great because if you missed writing something down, you could always ask the teacher for the "transcripts" at the end of class. I've found that course-management systems are pretty handy as well. Having PDF's of all the handouts on my laptop was immensely helpful and cut my copying costs down alot.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33101836)

Yeah, absolutely agree here. I would argue that technology shouldn't be used necessarily as part of the teaching process unless a professor feels it helps, so don't force them. Your analogy about doctors is bad because doctors are TEACHING techniques, not using new techniques TO teach. So your argument is good, but it actually only works for saying that IT professors should be teaching the latest stuff in IT...which most of them do.

In any event, as the parent said, in college the only class I had to retake was Physics 2. The professor I had the first time used slides, digital tests, clickers for stuff. I had a horrible time understanding, his use of technology made him think we should all "just get it" and he didn't answer questions very well and didn't use the board, so you have to keep up with his line of thought instead of being able to watch him write it down. When I retook it, nothing was digital, not even grades for the course. I got an A. All the professor did was teach the concepts on the board and do problems. This isn't saying that technology is bad, it's saying that (as the parent said) it can make professors lazy.

No (3, Insightful)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101586)

Professors should teach with whatever medium they feel most comfortable with. As a student, I am there to learn the concepts and ideas they are providing. Anything that gets in the way of that transfer of knowledge is a bad thing.

Tech or TeX? (0, Offtopic)

Hurga (265993) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101590)

I think professors should be required to teach with TeX, but maybe that's only me.

Re:Tech or TeX? (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101704)

I write my quizzes and exams in LaTeX, does that count?

Let's reverse the question (3, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101598)

Are students who fail to learn via old school methods only in school because the tech helped them get there? Are they only capableof learning one way? Sounds like they deserve to fail?

Nah (1)

jmcvetta (153563) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101606)

Specific teaching technologies should definitely not be mandated by the university administration. This is not so much because I doubt the utility of all new teaching technologies -- some are no doubt quite useful, others complete garbage -- so much as because I severely doubt the ability of educrats to mandate the actually-useful tools.

does tech help, or is it just a toy? (2, Interesting)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101612)

Are there any studies that show students who are taught with lots of technology actually get better qualifications?

If not, and if it doesn't make the teachers' lives any easier, what's the point?

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33101620)

Teachers should use the best method to teach the subject. Mandating specific technologies focuses on a means, but not necessarily the best means to the end.

They should be able to (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101624)

But also be able to use a blackboard. For some things the latter is just a lot better. Teaching with prepared slides (no matter what type) carries a huge risk of not saying enough or going though the material too fast. I have seen countless bad lectures and talks that resulted from this. If you write in real-time, e.g. on a blackboard, you not only have good timing, but you actually need to understand what you are talking about. Too many people using prepared presentations do not and waste their audience's time.

So, no, do not force teaching style on anybody. It is a very bad idea.

I'm going with mostly no (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101626)

I mean the one tech I think they should use is a video camera or similar device to tape the lecture but then again that would probably encourage stupid students to skip the lecture and watch it later. (But it would be a boon for us that went to the lecture, missed a point in the lecture and want to go back and see it again.) Other than that most of the time I don't think the tech would help.

Profs should use what's best for them and students (1)

techmuse (160085) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101654)

Different profs have different styles of teaching and communicating. Different technologies lend themselves well (or not) to different courses. PowerPoint slides work only so long as they are distributed to the students, but often cause the class to be taught too fast to take detailed notes. A blog wouldn't be useful at all for many courses. Would you find a blog on Roman history useful? What current events would the prof be responding to? How about a course on physics or compilers or crystal structures or genetics? How exactly would a blog help there?

Are the students technically inclined? If not, using technical resources may hurt more than it helps.

What really matters is if the prof can give clear explanations that students who learn in different ways can understand, whether or not the course is paced appropriately for the students, whether it is sufficiently advanced, but not so advanced that the students can't comprehend what is going on, whether assignments teach the students more of what they need to know, whether grading and feedback are timely and helpful, etc. It's not about throwing the latest technology at the students. That doesn't help at all unless it actually enhances how the students learn, or how effectively the prof can deliver the material!

Technology is only a tool, not a cure (2, Interesting)

Beetle B. (516615) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101658)

Whether technology can be useful depends entirely on the course and what it's trying to teach. I've taken courses that were taught very well with Powerpoint. Yet those same courses could be taught as well using traditional means. Some courses would really suck with Powerpoint, while yet others could benefit.

Wikis? Blogs? Again: Maybe. Depends on the course.

One thing I always hate about these discussions is the issue of students getting bored/falling asleep is always brought up. There are two sides to the coin: Yes, the professor should make all attempts to make the class interesting. And yes, the student should be flexible enough to learn from different styles. If he/she is falling asleep, it's not a given that the professor is to blame: Education is not a spectator sport.

More importantly, whether they fall asleep or not has virtually nothing to do with technology.

Finally: The article fails to mention the most important point: In today's (US) universities, professors have no incentive to become better educators, and are more interested in getting their next grant.

Tell /.'rs no tech is dangerous (3, Insightful)

selil (774924) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101662)

As a technology professor I'm going to say it. Tech in the classroom can be as debilitating as boring lectures. PowerPoint can be a crutch. Poor teaching can't be fixed by cool tech. I've got a million dollar lab full of tech, but if I put my students to sleep who cares?

I use AdobeConnect, instant messenger, a blog, CITRIX, a variety of open source tools, and a bunch more but I am a technology professor. I don't use powerpoints with bullets (presentation zen?) and I hate snore fest lectures more than my students.

Telling professors to use tech is like telling a mechanic to use a crescent wrench. What is the context of the learning environment and what are the learning outcomes? I tailor my educational strategy to the educational outcomes. Critical thinking skills, don't need flashy graphics if linear processes are the desired result.

Heck. I'd be happy if my students simply read the text book, and additional reading. When I assign a reading on the web half the time I get complaints that I didn't print it and pass it out in class. Some of my students say 100 pages of reading a week is to much homework. These are the same students bragging before class that they spend 50-60 hours a week play the latest MMORPG.

Re:Tell /.'rs no tech is dangerous (1)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101818)

100 pages a week is too much. In a 16 week course you'd need a 1600 page textbook. The best classes usually cover no more than a couple hudred pages of dense material.

Re:Tell /.'rs no tech is dangerous (1)

daveb1 (1678608) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101934)

depends. 100 pages a week is nothing tho...

The question is a two parter (4, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101666)

The summary asks two separate questions and then somehow magically links them together as if both questions can only ever by answered by the same answer.

Q1: Should professors use technology to teach?

Q2: Should professors stay up to date with teaching methodology.

Teaching methodology != technology. It may do in some cases, but it won't in most.

p.s. AFAIC, A1=No, A2=Yes.

Re:The question is a two parter (1)

ocean_soul (1019086) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101796)

Indeed, this are two completely unrelated questions.

Re:The question is a two parter (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101826)

Even Q2 I would answer with a "maybe."

If you are studying 19th century philosophy or Russian literature or such, an instructor who has been working on a handful of lectures and seminars over his or her entire career is going to be a lot more interesting than someone experimenting with methodologies. The best education is an engagement - a relationship between minds - and cultivating that relationship is a slow, interior process.

Regarding doing more things online (1)

Aboroth (1841308) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101670)

Maybe it is just me, but the students who want everything online, including the course notes and videos of the lectures, overwhelmingly just support that idea because they don't want to go to class. Sure, maybe they actually want to learn (unlikely), and maybe they are actually great self-studyers with lots of motivation (even more unlikely). I'm not even saying they learn anything from going to class, or that going to class is inherently better. All I'm saying is that they will support anything that means less hours physically in class, and haven't put much thought into whether or not it is actually better for them. They just see an opportunity to use tech buzzwords to support the agenda of sleeping in.

Then there are the people who simply push stuff with buzzwords so that they sound smart and feel like they are accomplishing something. They aren't thinking much about the repercussions of it either.

I'm not saying there aren't benefits to tons of tech and everything online, but neither category of person listed above really listens to any negatives, and will actively avoid intelligent discussion on the topic. So it is hard to take them seriously.

Per-course mailing list (1)

klapaucjusz (1167407) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101674)

There's just two medium-tech tools that I use for my courses:

  • the course's web page, where I publish my lecture notes (PDFs) and any useful information (including project deadlines);
  • the per-course mailing list, open to the lecturers, the TAs and the students. This is used both for official announcements (the lecturer is hung-over and won't be able to come), for unofficial announcements (some students are going for beer tonight, everyone is welcome), and for class-related discussion (does anyone understand what's written on page 27 of the lecture notes?).

Two years ago I stopped printing and distributing the lecture notes, since they are available on the web page. Nobody complained -- some students print them out on their own, but most of them are happy to just consult them online.

dumb (4, Insightful)

ralphdaugherty (225648) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101676)

This is the dumbest thing I've seen lately. Figures it's from education activists. I didn't think they could screw things any more than they have but apparently they're still at it.

Blogging? Taking tests with clickers? These people are pathetic. Please don't tell me we're paying for these a$$hats.


Re:dumb (1)

ocean_soul (1019086) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101788)


Re:dumb (1)

shrimppesto (766285) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101946)

"education activists" == "teachers who do not actually teach"

Using what works is what matters (1, Insightful)

timholman (71886) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101692)

As a faculty member who has been involved with web-based coursework, online lectures, and the integration of laptops in the classroom, I am less than impressed with most technology-based pedagogical "innovations".

It's not that teachers are typically anti-technology (although some certainly are), but instead that most teachers realize that adding technology does not necessarily improve the teaching experience, and in many cases can even be a distraction. There's a reason why the Socratic method of the lecturer standing in front of a classroom full of students has persisted so long - it works. It is very hard to beat the teaching effectiveness of a good instructor who can expand on concepts and formulate new examples on the fly, based on the questions asked during a lecture. Furthermore, technology cannot make bad teachers into good teachers, no matter how much money you throw at the problem. The man or woman in front of the class makes all the difference. Most tech-based classroom techniques are generally introduced with great fanfare, but generally fall by the wayside within a few years as everyone realize that they are more trouble than they're worth, i.e. too much time and money involved with no measureable improvement in student comprehension of the subject.

Most faculty are happy enough to use the web to distribute material to the class, or to post grades, but beyond that point you hit diminishing returns very quickly. I don't even try to post my class notes online, because I learned long ago that most students tend not to grasp the material unless you force them to create their own class notes. Beyond the current use of the web to distribute course materials, there are two pieces of technology that I would personally welcome to the classroom:

(1) A pen-based tablet with the ease of use of the Apple UI, for taking class notes. I'm not talking about the Windows / Wacom / OneNote tablets which still haven't gotten it right after years of attempts, but an entirely new concept that is more akin to the iPad experience.

(2) A augmented / virtual reality technology that would enable students to remotely "attend" a class with the same 360-degree audio-visual experience as physically being in the room. That's still a few years in the future, but I think it could make a big impact to education, as it would enormously multiply the effectiveness of good lecturers.

Re:Using what works is what matters (1)

laslo2 (51210) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101942)

Two semesters ago (as a student), I had a Calculus 3 class that was supposed to be in a "smart" classroom, complete with surround sound, projector, PC and Mac, automatically dimming lights, etc. Due to enrollment, the class got moved to a different classroom that had an old fashioned overhead projector and a blank space on the wall instead of a screen. The professor wanted to use the smart classroom, but we were ultimately stuck in the low tech "normal" classroom, so he printed his lecture notes (skeletal notes, which we filled in during the lectures in class) to transparencies, and uploaded the notes to Blackboard. (The main reason for wanting the smart classroom was being able to show graphs using Winplot and similar tools.)

I learned the material in that class from taking good notes, doing the homework, working with classmates, and reviewing the notes-- which I would have needed to do anyway. I never missed the "smart" stuff.

The same semester, I had a Zoology class that was in a smart classroom, and was based on Powerpoint presentations that included video clips and animations. Most of the time, the video presentations were distractions- they were meant to enhance the reading and lecture, but I never felt they did. Some of the animations (DNA replication) were useful, if they weren't longer than a couple of minutes. Again, I learned the most from taking good notes, reading the material, and working with other students.

On the student side of the class, I use a Livescribe Pulse Smartpen [] to record lectures along with my notes, and find that very useful-- but I leave my laptop in my bag.

Re:Using what works is what matters (4, Insightful)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101960)

the Socratic method of the lecturer standing in front of a classroom full of students

The Socratic method does not involve a lecturer, much less a lecturer standing in front of a classroom full students. Rather, the Socratic method consists of a discussion leader asking leading questions of a small group in order to get them to realize that they already have the answers bouncing around in their head.

If more professors used the Socratic method, I doubt that there would be as much emphasis on some of the more misguided trends in "interactive" education: group projects, small group discussions, web forums, etc. Much of the time (but certainly not all of the time), these props are a reaction to the perceived impersonality of the lecturer standing at the head of the classroom method that has dominated academia in the Anglo-phonic world through most of modern history.

The problem, though, is that the Socratic method doesn't scale well. You can cram 1000 students into the lecture hall if its large enough and they'll all be able to hear the lecture about equally as well. But you can't use the Socratic method very well on a group of more than about 10.

Logical conclusion (3, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101706)

Given: "technology" is possibly necessary for good instruction.
Given: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Conclusion: The authors want magical professors.

Re:Logical conclusion (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101838)

Well, there's always Hogwarts.

Not really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33101722)

"Learn what the boss wants and give it to them."

Mastering this all important skill is somewhat dependent on professors all being rather different in their teaching styles. Standardizing instruction to include certain kinds of high tech gear just reduces classroom variety and gives students tunnel vision, at least in regards to the pathway to classroom success.

Been working in instructional tech for 15 years (3, Interesting)

edremy (36408) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101748)

and my answer is hell no. Use what improves your teaching, not what you think you "have" to use. When I teach, I use a blackboard for most everything- it's simple, it always works and it doesn't get in my way. I'll use a computer in class when it's actually useful, for things like
  • 3-d models of molecules
  • Graphical simulations
  • Photos and movies

But simply moving your stack of notes to Powerpoint is beyond worthless- it wastes your time and adds nothing at all to the content of the course. Outside the classroom stuff like blogs and videoconferencing can be amazingly useful if you want to correspond with people around the world, but there's really not many good reasons to use stuff like discussion forums when you have a class of 10 people- why not just discuss face to face? We're spending a ton of time moving to a new course management system this year, but it's a plumbing application now- it makes doing routine chores easier and helps with distributing reserves and such, but there are very few serious pedagogy changes when using them. (We have a few exceptions, but 75% of the use is reserves, handouts and collecting papers)

Look at things that can improve the way you teach, to do something you *can't* do without tech. Don't just assume it's great because it looks shiny

Re:Been working in instructional tech for 15 years (1)

daveb1 (1678608) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101888)

"But simply moving your stack of notes to Powerpoint is beyond worthless- it wastes your time and adds nothing at all to the content of the course. " It gets worse - powerpoint but the lectures are using bought slides WHICH they are not sure if there is a mistake in and spend 15 minutes talking about the 'said possible mistake'. BAN POWERPOINT :)

"Tech is just a tool" really sums it up, but .... (1)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101750)

I think like in any other situation, you simply have to weigh the pros and cons to see if it adds enough value or not. For example, in the real basic scenario of "Do we still use a real chalk board with erasers, or a newer technology to replace them?", there are various options of increasing cost. The schools my kid has been attending dumped the traditional chalkboards in favor of white boards with dry erase markers. Then, they request that each parent supply a package of the dry erase markers as part of the school supply list. I find it a bit irritating, really, because those dry-erase markers are fairly expensive (especially when they specify you only give them a certain name-brand of them, like "Expo"). On the plus side though? I'm pretty sure those white boards erase more cleanly than chalkboards did, and you don't have to mess around with someone going out and clapping the erasers or washing the chalkboard with a sponge and bucket of water all the time. I think they're probably a little easier to read too.

Schools with more of a budget often went to electronic board technologies that let them digitize everything drawn on them, for download to a computer. Exponentially more expensive, but potentially a good value, if used properly.

At the end of the day though, ALL of these technologies do the same basic thing. It's still back to the TEACHER having the ability to convey the information well while drawing information on whichever board is implemented. Whether he/she writes in chalk, dry erase market, or digital light pen --- the content is what a student is paying for.

it all depends (1)

yyxx (1812612) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101760)

What works really depends on the professor, the student, and the subject; there's no one-size-fits-all.

Your employer should too? (1)

yalap (1443551) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101764)

Here we go again - 'lets computerize this mess and hope to improve it!' All you get is a computerized mess. But seriously, what does the poster expect his/her bosses to do? Create a razzle dazzle multimedia presentation that highlights your new tasks and responsibilities? Not likely. 'Get this done, and get it done fast'. Clickers during a business meeting? I don't think so. You are there to work, not be entertained or play games. I've seen 30+ years of technology in education and most of the time they prevent learning because there aren't enough computers, the server is down, it takes 15 mins to get everyone started (that is a huge chunk of time for a teacher/professor) Or, being the cynic that I am, maybe colleges will embrace this to recruit more students and charge higher fees. All they care about is their revenue, not whether the students are employable.

It really depents... (1)

ocean_soul (1019086) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101780)

...on a lot of things. Using tech just for the sake of using tech is stupid, of course. For most courses classic teaching methods are really the best their is. But that doesn't mean technology can't be helpful sometimes. Professors should know what is available, so they can chose if something is useful or not for their courses.

Not Tech... Technique (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101828)

Do I want teachers to use technology? Not necessarily. Do I want them to learn and try new techniques for teaching? Hell yes. I had a teacher who tried using a technique he saw from another professor that mainly consisted in short bursts of lectures with the majority of the courses taken up by interactive quizzes. He'd bring up a Powerpoint with questions in relation to the subject at hand, give the students some time to think about it and discuss with their peers, then ask for everyone to show a letter corresponding to their answer choice. He'd then explain the correct answer. Students would read chapters on the subject before going into the course (with a small timed online test to verify that you've indeed read the chapters).

The result? One of the most fun and engaging courses I've ever had. That's a new technique which happens to also use technology in the most effective manner possible. Of course, it really helped that the teacher was a good one (he was relaxed, knowledgeable and would constantly insert jokes in the presentations). It really makes me wish more teachers would go away from the traditional lecturing for two hours straight that makes you bored out of your mind.

Only the Kahn Academy get's it right. (1)

twisting_department (1329331) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101852)

Using tech for teaching has been proposed ever since the 8 bit computers hit the world. There never seemed to be any rhyme or reason to this concept apart the vague idea that "it's high tech, therefore it's good". There still isn't. Then comes Salman Khan and his Kahn Academy. Finally here is someone with a passion for teaching who uses the internet and simple tech in such a way that the perceived distance between him and a student is minimal. You can feel his enthusiasm. Salman manages to deliver a lecture and write the notes in the way the best of my lecturers did with a piece of chalk and a black board. Real professors in front of real students don't need any tech in the way. If I have the privilege to be a student in such a situation I want eyeball to eyeball contact with that human. Not a power point to stare at and later download.

A few observations from a real teacher (4, Interesting)

ezratrumpet (937206) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101854)

I've taught PK through college undergraduate, in nearly every discipline.

1. Societal advances in technology have been largely an effort at efficiency.

2. Educational applications in technology are rarely about increasing efficiency in student learning, but are occasionally about increasing efficiency in materials management for the teacher. Think electronic gradebooks: the reason they are nearly ubiquitous has nothing to do with administrative mandate, but with making things easier for the teacher. It's nothing for the computer to average grades? Weighting by assignment or category? No problem. Doing this with a calculator is a much more complicated proposition.

Electronic whiteboards are catching on for preserving lecture notes, but the real revolution here has passed - it was the change from overhead projector to video projector, especially if accompanied by a document camera. I use my projector ALL THE TIME for lecture notes, video, audio, still pictures - and when I have something to show I haven't captured digitally, I use the document camera.

The web-based communication tools allow me to post assignments and lesson plans online for involved parents and absent students. Video would help this, I suppose, but my classroom thrives on interaction - being a spectator to my lectures without being able to ask questions isn't the riveting experience I wish it would be.

Email allows an asynchronous communication between all of us, as do message board style discussions. These can have value among inquisitive students.

Here's the point, though: really inquisitive students are already doing inquisitive things that eclipse their peers' knowledge without huge effort. Extraordinary students drive their own learning. If I help a student become excited about a subject, and perhaps provide some resources & guidance for their own learning and research, then I've made the most important contribution. After that, it's a different sort of guidance than the "you need to know this so you won't be stupid" sort of instruction.

Ben Carson, head of pediatric neurology at John Hopkins, wrote about figuring out that he learned best by reading, and once he did this, he stopped going to class except for tests and labs. Instead, he read books. He read the assigned material, then read the source material for the assigned material, and then probably read more on top of that.

He redefined the whole field because he knew his strengths as a learner.

Anything technology can do to help a teacher advance that sort of self-knowledge is helpful, possibly important, and maybe even essential.

But if we can't state clearly how a technology will help advance student learning (or even improve teacher efficiency), we have no business expecting teachers to use that technology in their work.

TL;dr: use the best tool for the Learning, not the best tool available.

Three words: (2, Informative)

Pollux (102520) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101894)

Conflict of Interest.

While I normally would begin this discussion by putting forth a rather common sense argument (simply put: a good teacher is not good because technology makes him good, but rather because he makes technology work for him), I believe that the discussion is a moot point. Here's why:

The director of the Office of Educational Technology (the agency that published the previously cited report) is Karen Cator [] . Just read her bio there, and you'll discover that she worked for Apple computer for a decade. Conflict of Interest. The recommendations put forth in this report are invalid, because the director's previous employer stands to gain billions in revenue if the recommendations in this report are implemented nationwide. And what does this director stand to gain by steering billions of taxpayer dollars into the hands of Apple?

Use iPads in the classroom, dammit (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33101916)

Why aren't people buying more iPads?

Please, use that government money to buy iPads for the kids, instead of hiring more, better instructors.

Computers don't always make it better. (1)

LinuxIsGarbage (1658307) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101920)

Use it where appropriate. Yes, housekeeping is a good use, why is that looked down on? The ability to post/get assignment, outlines, etc online. The ability to email the professor with a question. But as far as the actual teaching? In many math / science classes, a "chalk and talk" approach works better than simply showing slides (Powerpoint of Latex/pdf), and "smart boards" and the like can get in the way. The background information is available in textbooks (with the assigned readings), and the lecture can be used for going over material and examples.

In math classes, while knowing how to use programs like MATLAB is useful, much more important is understanding the fundamentals behind it first. Otherwise programs like MATLAB, Maple, or graphing calculators become a crutch.

In many lectures (in any discipline), "technology" doesn't add a lot in the lecture by itself. Powerpoint slides, OHP slides, writing notes on the board from the text all have about the same impact.

Working through a MATLAB example in front of the class may be marginally useful (again as a supplement to fundamental learning). Labs are a different story, where hands on with tech that may be the same (or similar) to industry is a useful skill (even if taught on a 5 version behind Windows 98 version).

There's this idea that simply having computers in the class makes more learning happening. I've had classes take place in the computer lab. Most students just surf around on the net and ignored the professor. Likewise any time I see laptops out in a lecture, in most cases it's used as a distraction, not to take notes. The number of laptops were inversely proportional to how engaging the prof was. The more laptops were out, the less attention people were paying to the professor.

Basically there's this ongoing idea that simply throwing technology at education (or any problem) will make it better. That's not the case. It should be used only where there's a tangible benefit.

Technology is no panacea (2, Funny)

Adrian Lopez (2615) | more than 3 years ago | (#33101950)

Only 13 percent of the professors surveyed said they used blogs in teaching; 12 percent had tried videoconferencing; and 13 percent gave interactive quizzes using 'clickers,' or TV-remotelike devices that let students respond and get feedback instantaneously.

You forgot Twitter. You can't have a proper classroom without Twitter!

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