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Should Professors Be Required To Teach With Tech? 319

Posted by Soulskill
from the or-required-to-teach-with-guns dept.
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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Should Professors Be Required To Teach With Tech?

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  • Yes. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by olsmeister (1488789) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:24PM (#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.
    • by TheLink (130905)
      Until the day you have "Woah, I know kungfu!" tech :).
    • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by blackraven14250 (902843) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:55PM (#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.
      • by Confused (34234) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @01:08PM (#33101772) Homepage

        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.

        • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @01:17PM (#33101832) Journal

          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.

        • by tsm_sf (545316) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @01:18PM (#33101850) Journal
          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.
        • by edumacator (910819) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @07:44PM (#33105190)

          the technology used has nothing to do with the learning success.

          In fact it can hinder it. I often go into other teachers' classrooms to try and help them with integrating technology into their instruction. Powerpoint is a seductive killer with interaction.

          Often times, when a student asks a question that is out of line with the next slide, a teacher who has become reliant on technology to teach for them, rather than using it to enhance their instruction, will ignore the question or gloss over an answer -- at the very moment you KNOW you have a student's interest, the absolute worst time to blow a student off.

          Technology should be used in education as it should be in the real world, to facilitate the task at hand. Using PowerPoint is rarely a quality use of technology. Have the students argue with each other in a discussion board. Let them rate each other's work. Give them the ability to interact with the larger world, where their work will be judged, applauded or ridiculed, rather than with seemingly arbitrary letter grades.

          The whole technology community should be engaging with their local schools to discuss how technology is used outside of the classroom. Too many teachers are lured in by pretty tech without considering how it will benefit the students beyond the "wow" factor.

          </ SoapBox >

      • Re:Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 01, 2010 @01:08PM (#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. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by FatdogHaiku (978357) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @02:17PM (#33102248)
          I agree that a powerpoint presentation tends to remove some flexibility from the teachers toolkit. There is also a timing factor to be considered. When a slide changes in an instant, the nimble mind tends to sideline whatever mental process was going on in order to focus on the new data. This is normal as the new data may have some bearing on the current process, but I think it can lead to a sort of induced Attention Deficit Disorder. I believe writing things by hand gives the previous information some time to sink in and integrate while the next set of data is slowly being revealed. That's not to say that projected presentation in not useful, but I think it should be at best a secondary mode of communication with students.
      • by tsa (15680)

        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

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by denobug (753200)

          But I don't think going interactive using technology will work well in front of 100 or so people

          That's the point. The key is not so much tech or not. It is the class size and other factors that is the main obstacles of preventing interactions between the teachers and the students. A class of 100 simply doesn't help student to learn math and science properly in my opinion.

      • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @01:09PM (#33101782)

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

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MoonBuggy (611105) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @01:13PM (#33101810) Journal

        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. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Pixie_From_Hell (768789) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @01:20PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Totenglocke (1291680)

          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.

          Speaking as a former student, it's way too easy for some teachers to go far too fast using just a chalkboard. The medium used to convey the information is irrelevant. It's all about if a professor goes at a reasonable pace and actually makes sure students understand it (such as asking students questions that are similar, but not identical, to what was just presented). Simply asking "Any questions?" when you're going too fast for the students don't work because virtually no one wants to admit that they're

      • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by shrimppesto (766285) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @01:21PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        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. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dskoll (99328) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @01:38PM (#33101978)

        Completely contrary to my experience. When I was in university (admittedly in the dark ages in the late 1980's), I much preferred teaches who wrote on the board rather than using slides. It was easier to keep up with them, and watching the board content "develop" over time somehow made the material stick in my brain much better than watching a slide.

    • 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 yo

    • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Idarubicin (579475) < minus pi> on Sunday August 01, 2010 @01:51PM (#33102072) Journal

      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.

      What kind of ridiculous job do you have, where your boss communicates with his subordinates through a blog, and where presenters at meetings prepare multiple-choice quizzes that staff have to 'click in' on? Are you Regis Philbin, returning to host the next season of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

      Of the technologies listed in the Slashdot blurb, only teleconferencing is likely to be important in a modern workplace -- and that is apt to have very narrow applications for most university courses.

      Far more useful are the non-technology-centered teaching techniques mentioned: hands-on exercises and group activities. Those actually do much better represent how things are learned and done in the real world.

    • And because it's what students want and students are paying for the service. We should stop letting schools and teachers get away with bad customer service. It's just bullshit that they shouldn't have to provide good service to their students because students should respect their elders/educators.

    • No (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jandersen (462034)

      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.

      I disagree. The first duty - possibly the only duty - of a teacher should be to teach their subject in the best way possible. Just because people believe it is much better/easier to use some tech media doesn't mean that it is. Take Powerpoint presentations, for example: most people think this is an effective way of communicating, but studies have shown that in fact, the speech and what goes on on the slides disturb each other, so the audience actually get less out of it. Add to that, of course, the effect o

  • In short... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kidgenius (704962) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:26PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by siwelwerd (869956)

      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Helios1182 (629010)

        And using a computer isn't useful in the teaching aspect. When performing computations on large matrices a computer is invaluable, but when learning the concept it isn't.

    • by mangu (126918) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @01:55PM (#33102096)

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

      I don't know where you studied, but I studied basic matrix operations like calculating determinants and inverting matrices in high school in Brazil. More advanced operations, like calculating eigenvalues and eigenvectors, came in my first year in college.

      In our modern life technology is very important for learning any subject. Even in social studies you can benefit from tools like search engines. Blogs and discussion groups help you communicate ideas. You cannot have a face to face discussion with someone from the other side of the world, but technology will enrich your life by allowing you to meet different ideas and concepts.

      When I come to think of it, there's only one group that wouldn't benefit from the facilities in communications that our modern technology brings us: the religious fanatics.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by kidgenius (704962)
        Elementary matrix manipulations should most definitely be taught to do by hand. I was referring to doing larger matrix calculations, like those done in a finite element analysis, etc. Things I did in my junior year of college.
  • No!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fluch (126140) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:28PM (#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.

    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      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.
      • 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
        • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Manip (656104)
      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 bec
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Yvanhoe (564877)
      The problem is that often, when "tech" is used, it doesn't make the lecture better : it makes it obsolete.
      • by IANAAC (692242)

        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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Yvanhoe (564877)
          I have been to three kind of lectures :
          - The lecturer reads the handouts.
          - The lecturer tries to "interact" with a 60+ students room and ends up answering the dumbest questions and lose everyone's time.
          - The handout is bad enough so that we need to copy what the lecturer says and it takes 2 or 3 years to have a student-made handout that is good enough.

          Actually, there was a 4th kind : one teacher who had been a student of Feynman and apparently tried to imitate a lively form of teaching. I can't say th
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Shotgun (30919)

            You missed out, Yvanhoe.

            There was the "you and 600 of your closest friends" class. It was Psych 101, for me. It had one of the PhD candidates acting as an aid to give a presentation of what was clearly delineated in the book. The class was a waste of time.

            There was the "watch the unintelligible professor mumble at the blackboard while scribbling stuff" class. I had the pleasure to sit through that for Calculus 3. I'm still not sure what all that scribbling on the board was. Very little of it looked li

  • by PrecambrianRabbit (1834412) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:32PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gmuslera (3436)

      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 t

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      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.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...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!

    • by Manip (656104)
      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: (Score:3, Informative)

        Middlesex County College NJ, and Devry NJ, just to name two I know.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by shrimppesto (766285)

        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 ha

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by PitaBred (632671)

        It's quite common in testing situations that you have to write code without the benefit of a computer to validate it before you hand it in. But that's mostly in theory courses, not in classes like Graphics or something where you have to do the projects on a computer.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      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.
  • Silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by icegreentea (974342) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:35PM (#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.
    • Re:Silly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Backward Z (52442) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @02:04PM (#33102160)

      Requiring Professors to teach by certain techniques is certainly going to lead to disaster...What benefit would forcing professors to teach integration with powerpoints bring?

      I want to address this. Full disclosure: I worked for several years as an A/V tech at UC Berkeley.

      Your first sentence is spot on the money but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. Professors are like petulant children when it comes to learning new technology--it's as if they're proud that they don't know how to operate a VCR or speak into a microphone properly.

      But the part that you're missing here is webcasting. At Cal, webcasting is becoming a huge huge thing. The professors don't like it because it means fewer students show up for class (if I were a student I'd appreciate this because it would mean more access for me) but the administration LOVES the idea. It goes something like this: "If all of the students could just stay home and watch the lectures online then why are we paying to heat the lecture halls?"

      This is the way things are moving. The webcasting program at Cal, despite using stone-aged RealMedia technology, has been astoundingly successful. We'd get emails from the other side of the world thanking us for what we were doing (and complaining that the professors didn't know how to speak into a microphone properly).

      What I'm trying to say is, whether or not the professors like it, this is the way things will be trending in the next generation. Professors that don't know how to interface with techonology will become relics.

      Not like this will happen anytime soon--by and large the profs get their way. It was just a year ago that we finally discontinued support for SLIDE PROJECTORS for chrissakes. I should only hope that they're phasing out the VCR's by now.

      In the end, though, the people who suffer when the prof doesn't want to learn the tech are the students and even moreso the people who are watching the webcasts online for free--people who possibly cannot afford a proper education or live in a part of the world where such a thing is unavailable to them. To them, a professor that can't take ten minutes to figure out where to pin a lavalier mic on their lapel should be nothing short of an insult.

      • Digital rights (Score:4, Insightful)

        by cpotoso (606303) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @02:49PM (#33102460) Journal
        You know, if I am going to have one of my lectures videorecorded so that the University can use and re-use it again then they'd better improve my compensation packet. As of now, I do not grant them the right to re-distribute things indiscriminately. It is sort of the re-negotiation of contracts for actors after VHS/DVD/BD came along... Each new medium for the producers to make extra $$ then the people who actually work in making the product should get extra $$ too.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:35PM (#33101582) Journal
    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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by UnknowingFool (672806)

      I agree. There should be a difference in a professor embracing new information and embracing new technology. They are not the same thing.

  • No. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Manip (656104) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:35PM (#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. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by supercrisp (936036) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @01:38PM (#33101982)
      My wife does research in instructional technology, and I am, as you might guess (since I'm on /.), a nerd. We both keep up on the research on the value of "tech" in teaching, and the results seem to suggest that technology is not so helpful in the classroom. Maybe this is because it's still often a distraction because teachers don't know how to use it well or because it's often still quite clunky to use. That said, one thing is certain: all the students (and people on slashdot) who say they can multitask with technology are very likely wrong when it comes to any task that requires recall or concentrated thought.

      I am an advocate of using technology in the classroom when it is appropriate. I think many popular uses are not appropriate. Clickers are of dubious value. Online tech often encourages bad forms of testing, but it's very useful for unevaluated, "low-threat" fluency-building writing--BUT the pressure is always on, from students AND administrators to offer grades for all work. Admins need to demonstrate teaching's impact, while students don't want to work that doesn't have "count."

      Tech is useful when it's very careful integrated into a lesson plan and sparingly used. But the main focus these days is on using tech to increase the ratio of students to teachers and/or classrooms. And a lot of the people who want to use or advocate for tech either are a) somewhat over-enthusiastic people who want to use computers for everything, including dessert topping and floor wax, or b) older people who are doing it for appearances. You end up with a lot of people using class time to teach the technology instead of the subject, or (worse) older people thinking it's cool and useful to convert all their old lesson plans to PowerPoint slide with snazzy transitions (they then spend 15 minutes of each class trying to plug the video cable into the Ethernet port).

      Finally, and here's the kicker for me: tech is costly, either to students or to the institution. If we're going to spend money, it would be better spend on teachers because we no without any doubt that students benefit from greater direct access to faculty. But that's so old-fashioned, and you can't say cyber this and 2.0 that on the fundraising brochures if you're just hiring faculty.

      Note: Why do I initially write "tech"? Because we always mean electronics. The chalkboard and whiteboard are tech, and they're often under-utilized or poorly utilized by teachers. (I realize I'm sort of blowing my ethos because I'm too lazy to get real paragraph breaks. But it's Sunday, and I'm feeling entitled.)

      One more thing, seriously, administrators, 1995 is calling; it wants "cyber" back.

  • No (Score:4, Insightful)

    by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy AT tpno-co DOT org> on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:36PM (#33101586) Homepage

    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.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:38PM (#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?
  • by jmcvetta (153563)

    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.

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:39PM (#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?

  • 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

  • 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.
  • 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 structur

  • by Beetle B. (516615) <{moc.liame} {ta} {b_elteeb}> on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:47PM (#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.

  • by selil (774924) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:47PM (#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.

    • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by blueg3 (192743)

        Depends on the information density. A chapter of Jackson's Classical Electrodynamics is something like 30-40 pages and is too much for one week. A Harry Potter novel is something like 800+ pages and is light reading for a week.

    • by PitaBred (632671) <> on Sunday August 01, 2010 @02:14PM (#33102226) Homepage

      Just remember that you are not their only teacher. That's the thing that always got me in school... every teacher said "it's not that much!" but when you add it all together (and you're working a job through high school) it's a hell of a lot of work. 100 pages of reading a week isn't that much. But if I have to do 700 pages of reading each week because I have 7 classes? That's two novels a week.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ralphbecket (225429)

        Ha ha, when I was an undergrad my friend's supervisor for one course told his students, "Most supervisors do not realise you have other courses to study for and expect you to spend 100% of your time on their course alone. I do understand, and only expect you to spend 80% of your time on mine."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Idarubicin (579475)

      Some of my students say 100 pages of reading a week is to much homework.

      It depends on the reading. In an English course, that's a trifling amount. In a science course with densely-written prose that may need to be reread multiple times (or have proofs and analyses reviewed and rederived by the the reader) that's a pretty steep demand. Is this stuff that just needs to be skimmed, or is it stuff that needs to be closely read? It is technology news, or technology specifications? Are those 'printed from a website' pages, with a large font and lots of pictures, or are they 'te

  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:49PM (#33101666) Homepage

    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.

    • 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.

  • 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 mea
  • 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 understan
  • dumb (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ralphdaugherty (225648) <> on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:50PM (#33101676) Homepage

    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.


  • 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 lectu

    • by brokeninside (34168) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @01:36PM (#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 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:56PM (#33101706)

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

  • by edremy (36408) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @01:05PM (#33101748) Journal
    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

  • 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

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

  • 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 cor
  • by ezratrumpet (937206) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @01:20PM (#33101854) Journal
    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: (Score:3, Informative)

    by Pollux (102520) <speter@teda[ ] ['ta.' in gap]> on Sunday August 01, 2010 @01:27PM (#33101894) Journal

    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?

  • by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @01:35PM (#33101950) Homepage

    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!

  • "Clickers" (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Carik (205890) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @02:25PM (#33102292)

    My university started using them 7 or 8 years ago. They're the biggest boon ever to students who want to skip class.

    You just bribe a classmate to bring it with and answer quiz questions for you, and you get all the credit and the teacher thinks you were there. I saw people running four or five clickers in a single class period.

  • by dcollins (135727) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @02:28PM (#33102302) Homepage

    Higher tech for the sake of higher tech is the worst thing you can do with technology. It's a scam. Examples:

    (1) My home state of Maine gives every kid in school in the state a laptop. It's a scam so someone can say "look, we're hi tech". Teachers waste time on discipline problems, tech breakdown, being forced unnecessarily into using tech-driven instruction so as to not waste the laptops. I'm told that every day there has to be a UPS delivery to every school in the state from Apple with replacement laptops.

    (2) Dean at prior college (non-union-strong) had a meeting where he demanded instructors use overhead projectors because of the expense of installing them, so we could show off how high-tech we are. If I put it up to a student vote ("Do you like PowerPoint instruction, or not?" -- "Do you like group projects, or not?") they usually decline. Scam.

    Unfortunately, higher education is plagued by the need of education experts/PHDs to make careers/publication by "some new thing", anything whatsoever. That's why you get ridiculous churn in methods, teaching styles, group work, hands-on, technology, etc., etc. And it works hand-in-hand with book publishers who use the same as a reason to churn new book editions every so years, so that old editions can't be re-used.

    Here's a completely crazy idea -- base decisions like these on research as to whether it helps students (and not on just whether it makes some salesman/budget-administrator cream in their pants). Does such research exist? Consider this article in the last issue of the AFT's American Educator:

    Can research provide any guidelines as to which classroom applications are most effective?... The studies on these point to two conclusions. First, the mere presence of technology in the classroom does not necessarily mean that students learn more. Second -- and, perhaps, a corollary of the first conclusion -- using these technologies effectively is not as obvious as it might seem at first. [American Educator, Summer 2010, Daniel T. Willingham, "Ask the Cognitive Scientist: Have Technology and Multitasking Rewired How Students Learn?", p. 26] []

    In short: The "hi-tech uber alles" fetish is, mostly, another in a long series of time & money-wasting scams perpetrated on the education system. There's little or no evidence that it helps student learning, and there is evidence that the time required to manage/prepare/leverage technology resources is directly lost from the educator's other existing duties of teaching, assessment, and feedback.

  • Academic quarter (Score:3, Informative)

    by Misagon (1135) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @02:41PM (#33102408)

    When I went to college lectures, more often than not, the lecturer spent up to a quarter of an hour of the beginning of the lecture trying to hook up his laptop to the auditorium's projector system and getting the PA system to work properly.

    And these were classes in Computer Science, mind you ...

    So no, tech can even be a hindrance to education.

  • by aussersterne (212916) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @03:27PM (#33102730) Homepage

    I teach at the university level, and would suffer sanctions or at least be spoken to if I just used:

    - Blogs
    - Websites
    - Online tools

    In class willy-nilly. I can't even create a discussion forum for us somewhere or email the students directly using their preferred email address (instead, I am stuck using school addresses that many rarely check). Instead, I am usually bound to a pre-determined, certified list of internal tools of which the most infernal is Blackboard, which seems to be the "technology tool" of choice at every campus at which I've taught. Too bad because its user interface is so absolutely poor that students who spend their days entirely online still can't figure it out; its compatibility is so bad that trying to use it in a course is a sure way to spend at least half of a class if not an entire class talking about required browsers and how to install them; and its stability is so bad that you'd better not rely on it for evaluated exercises, because half the students will say "it was down, I couldn't do the assignment" and a quick exchange with IT will reveal this to have been the case.

    From the other technology tools that seem to make their way onto campuses, the electronic blackboard/whiteboard tools are cute but are so expensive that they tend to be locked away / disabled and require that you file in advance for access on the days that you're "planning" to use them, necessitating a visit from an IT tech before and after class. And predictably, half the time when they get there with the key and switch you on, you find out that the system is damaged in some way and doesn't actually operate, but nobody has reported it or performed maintenance / swap-outs in that room for ages and despite your need and reporting, their ETA for repair, once scheduled is sometime after the semester is over.

    The one university I taught at as an adjunct that issued new ThinkPads to its students and had campus WiFi also locked them down completely with just IE and Office and not even Flash, meaning that many online applications and tools of various kinds couldn't be used.

    Basically, I could just bring MY laptop and students could just bring THEIR laptop and we could use the WiFi and OUR OWN accounts and whatever software we wished, my classrooms would be FAR more technologically enabled. With all of the requirements, it becomes far more practical and easy to simply do a better job doing what good instructors have always done: stand at the front of the classroom, talk a lot and ask a lot of Socratic questions, and write on the blackboard with chalk or on the whiteboard with a marker. That, at least, tends to be accessible everywhere and very fail-safe.

What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite. -- Bertrand Russell, "Skeptical Essays", 1928