Technology changes skills utilized in classrooms
April 26, 2007
(Editor's note: This is the fifth installment in a six-part series. Next week look for two columns about the future of academics and the impact of the ever-increasing technology to end the series.)
New technological devices continue to change the way students learn and the format professors use to educate those students.
Many instructors utilize D2L to post handouts and keep their students up to date with the latest happenings in the course.
Economics professor and Associate Dean of the College of Business and Economics Brian Schultz said he uses D2L to send out mass messages to students to let them know about schedule changes and upcoming due date for assignments.
Marketing communications professor Tracy O’Connell said she uses D2L not only to post similar content, but also has students use the dropbox to upload assignments. She said she also utilizes D2L to post students’ grades.
“I think D2L is great because it enables students to get work in even if they can’t come to class ... ,” she said. “I am able to give feedback without [having] to write neatly. I just need to type and I can go into edit mode and show right in the document where there’s something specific to mention.”
O’Connell said D2L is more convenient when it comes to returning graded assignments as well. Instead of physically handing back assignments, D2L allows her to grade assignments and post remarks electronically.
“I think it’s more efficient, and I think most students like it,” she said. “As someone concerned with the environment, I also like the reduction in paper and toner used with the ‘paperless classroom.’”
Freshman Crystal Rakestraw is one student who finds the use of D2L convenient.
“I really like when my professor’s use D2L,” she said. “I am more capable of keeping up to date on my grades, and I don’t always have to use their time to ask. I wish that some of my teachers that don’t use D2L, would.”
Rakestraw said the posting of handouts or sources on D2L is more accessible for her and allows her to peruse the material at her own pace.
“I really like that some of my professor’s do put PowerPoints and other things on D2L,” she said. “It allows me to view them anytime that I would like, and I can often study them at my own convenience.”
Though D2L may be perceived as more convenient, Schultz said students using D2L may have a negative impact on the study habits of students.
“Students are maybe a little less likely to read a textbook if I put handouts or references on D2L,” he said.
PowerPoint presentations have become popular in classroom settings, yet many professors said they don’t particularly like them.
Economics professor John Walker said he is fonder of the old overhead projectors and has never really been a fan of PowerPoint.
Schultz said he favors the idea of writing out definitions and topics of discussion on a chalkboard more than using PowerPoint slides. He said some students tend to read and write down the bulleted points and disregard the explanation.
“The expectation ... is that the little tidbits I write, [students] should elaborate on and get more notes and review the text,” Schultz said.
O’Connell agrees with Schultz.
“ ... I think some students don’t listen all that closely and don’t use discernment in understanding the lecture,” she said. “[They] copy down what’s on the slide and don’t focus on the information behind it. I don’t know this for sure, but the programmed activity around a new slide appearing, rather than an ongoing note taking, leads me to think that.”
Psychology professor and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Brad Caskey said he uses PowerPoint minimally. He said he thinks PowerPoint used statically is boring, and they are basically just “glorified overheads.”
When looking at PowerPoint from this standpoint, Caskey said that technology hasn’t changed significantly.
“I’m not a big fan of PowerPoint,” Caskey said. “There’s nothing exciting to it.”
Caskey said he only uses PowerPoint if it enhances what he does.
“PowerPoint doesn’t enhance learning,” he said. “It depends on how it’s used. If you can show students something, then it’s effective. Actual technology does not enhance learning.”
Economics professor Jackie Brux said using PowerPoints too much can cause students to lose interest in the course material.
“My students tell me they get tired of PowerPoint presentations, and I normally don’t like them either,” she said. “I like more spontaneity.”
E-mail is another technology that has become commonplace and students, staff and faculty rely on it to keep in touch with others.
Schultz said he gets a lot of e-mails from students and it has helped communication. He said students are more apt to contact professors via e-mail because they feel more comfortable than stopping by a professor’s office.
Rakestraw is one student who said though e-mail is one medium through which to communicate with professors, it is not her desired method.
“I do like the ability of talking to my professors through e-mail,” Rakestraw said. “ ... If I am able to talk to them in person, I feel that I have a better connection with them.”
Over the years, Caskey said technology has not enhanced learning as much as it has enhanced how students do research and write papers. When he was in college, Caskey said he had to write his papers on a typewriter and research was done in a different manner.
“We had to go to a place called a library and read things called books,” he said.
Now most information is available electronically, and students don’t have to go to the library.
“Today, students can sit at a computer at home and access libraries, not only here, but all over the world,” Caskey said.
Because of the advent of Microsoft Word and spelling and grammar checking capabilities, Caskey said he expects more from his students when it comes to research papers because there’s no reason students should be spelling words wrong when technology has capabilities to correct such errors.