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Why Professors Love (and Loathe) Technology 113

Posted by Soulskill
from the cellphones-going-off-in-lectures dept.
dougled writes "A survey of 4,500 college professors (and campus technology administrators) reveals what faculty members think of digital publishing (they like it, but don't do it very much), how much they use their campus learning management systems (not nearly as much as their bosses think), and how digital communication has changed their work lives (they're more productive, but far more stressed)."
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Why Professors Love (and Loathe) Technology

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 24, 2012 @01:36PM (#41112885)

    I can tell you, working with some very smart profs, that they fall into the exact same classes that you find anywhere else.

    You have people that are unreasonable (wanting things to be perfect in an imperfect world), you have people that can't apply basic common sense to using their computer (someone today, for instance, that they can have unlimited disk space and has magical thinking about the situation), people with poor problem solving skills, oldsters whom the world changed around and can't deal with it, people that can't use google, etc. etc...

    So I guess what I am saying is that sometimes I wonder if singling them out as a class has any use at all. They're simply people.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      People that don't live in the real world. I have a physics prof that I visited one day, and after we caught up, he asked for some computer help. He didn't even understand the concept of gigabytes or megahertz. He is so buried in the world of the very small (superstrings) that he doesn't understand the basics of computer science. And he's not that old either; he used computers in college but it's as if his knowledge stopped in 1985.

      I never understand why people cite professors as if they are the end-all

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I have a physics prof that I visited one day, and after we caught up, he asked for some computer help. He didn't even understand the concept of gigabytes or megahertz.

        Maybe he didn't know, but if you explained it and he wanted to learn it (I admit, some professors like that can be arrogant and condecending) a physicist should have no problem grasping the concept of a frequency and of information. "Bytes" are a strange invention, but bits and information theory may be an important part of quantum theory. I have met physics professors who are old enough to have trouble seeing, but still have an amazing ability to work with computing. It helps that many physicists (experim

    • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday August 24, 2012 @02:13PM (#41113277)

      The administrators appear to be out touch too (see below). Frankly I don't understand the obsession with posting video lectures. I've found copied handouts of the prof's notes (and also homework solutions) much more useful than a meandering talk. I can scan the notes far, far faster than I can scan a 50 minute video.

      "
      Administrators believed that 73 percent of the professors at their institutions used data logged by the LMS either âoeregularlyâ or âoeoccasionallyâ to identify students who need extra help..... In fact, only 51 percent of faculty reported doing so. About half of the administrators estimated that professors regularly or occasionally posted video-recorded lectures into the LMS, but just 25 percent of the faculty respondents actually do. Nearly 80 percent of administrators said their faculty members regularly or occasionally used the LMS to track student attendance; the professors clocked in at 44 percent."

      • by rdnetto (955205)

        It's pretty much standard at my university (in Australia) to post video lectures and slides online, and I'd say it's invaluable. The slides are great if you need to look something up or fill in something you missed during the lecture, but the videos are better if you missed the lecture entirely (you could have a clash, been ill, etc.) since the lecturer often goes into additional details and explanations beyond what's in the slides, or does a derivation in the margins.

  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday August 24, 2012 @01:37PM (#41112897) Homepage Journal
    I'd never heard of this..from the article:

    As for âoeflipping the classroomâ -- that is, banishing the lecture and focusing precious class time on group projects and other forms of active learning

    Man..glad they didn't have this crap when I was in school....I just wanted to get in there, listen, take notes....and GTFO. I just need enough interaction to take the test and make the grade and get out to get a job.

    Strange tho...I'm actually quite a sociable person...outside of the class and work, I have lots of friends and go out, have fun, I have no problem talking to strangers and making new friends.

    But at school, and usually at worksites...I'm there to go in, get a job done...and get out. I'm not there to make friends. I don't hardly ever socialize with co-workers. I didn't ever want to really socialize with anyone in my classes, hell, I never really knew anyone's name in the classes (unless it was a good looking girl I'd like to meet and bang)....

    I dunno....i guess to me, work is work...get in, get it done, get out...and then go into "real life" mode..where I have my friends and my fun.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Man..glad they didn't have this crap when I was in school....I just wanted to get in there, listen, take notes....and GTFO. I just need enough interaction to take the test and make the grade and get out to get a job.

      To put it bluntly, professors don't care about students with this attitude. Nor should they. If the student has no interest in learning (but just wants to do the minimal amount of work to get a grade and pass the test), a professor isn't going to put any kind of effort into teaching them. Why should they? College isn't elementary school where it is the teacher's job to force kids to learn.

      Newer ideas like "flipping the classroom" are for students who actually want to learn about the subject. Studies sh

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        "Newer ideas like 'flipping the classroom'"

        People talk about this "flipping the classroom" thing as if it were a brand new concept. I guess they're the ones who, in school when asked to read such and such a chapter and come to class prepared, didn't do it. They probably skipped the seminars and non-mandatory labs in university too.

        • by cayenne8 (626475)

          They probably skipped the seminars and non-mandatory labs in university too.

          Well, of course....they ran those during happy hour...I was busy at the bar doing the "beat the clock" specials, and trying to get laid.

          Hell, mixed drinks started out at $0.10...and went up every 15 minutes....

      • by dtmos (447842) *

        To put it bluntly, professors don't care about undergraduate students with this attitude, or any other.

        FTFY.

        And I would say that that goes double for professors teaching undergraduate required classes (chemistry, biology, physics, etc.) at universities that have medical schools. At the U.S. university I attended (a large state school with more than 30,000 students at the time), people interested in learning chemistry need not apply, because the goal was to avoid teaching freshmen at all costs -- too many students might pass, and then how would they fund the sophomore organic chemistry classes? Besides, the

        • by Urza9814 (883915)

          At Penn State (graduated last year) we had some GREAT introductory science profs. I'll never forget my introductory physics prof -- every other lecture he'd have some big demo of the concept he was trying to teach. From "killing" Kenny from South Park (I think he hung him to demo something about pendulums) to shooting himself into the next room on a swivel chair with a fire extinguisher (newton's laws)...great class. And during lectures he'd usually wander through the lecture hall (we're talking two hundred

          • by photonyx (2507666)
            That's because if you come to 300-400 level classes you are considered motivated and mature enough to sit through and think for yourself.

            It's a pity that majority of students don't realize that college tuition is the payment for the opportunity to learn, not payment for good grades.
            • by Urza9814 (883915)

              I'm not sure that you're understanding me. By professors not caring, I'm talking about the guys who don't actually teach anything and then just post the entire exam -- along with the solutions -- on their website a week before the exam, call it a "study guide" (No, it wasn't 'similar' to the exam, it WAS the exam, he just printed that out and gave it to use for the test. And it was multiple choice and fill in the blank.) The professors who don't answer questions; who take 30 minutes out of a 70 minute class

              • by photonyx (2507666)

                I'm not sure that you're understanding me. By professors not caring, I'm talking about the guys who don't actually teach anything and then just post the entire exam -- along with the solutions -- on their website a week before the exam, call it a "study guide" (No, it wasn't 'similar' to the exam, it WAS the exam, he just printed that out and gave it to use for the test. And it was multiple choice and fill in the blank.) The professors who don't answer questions; who take 30 minutes out of a 70 minute class just getting the computer booted up; who do nothing more than read off of slides prepared by somebody else; and who refuse to accept obviously correct answers because they're not phrased in exactly the same way it was phrased on the answer sheet.

                Doesn't sound like any professor that I've encountered in my life... I guess you went to a tough college :) The worst I've seen was a professor reading from a textbook (one section == one lecture).

    • Ah, another follower of the creed of The Friday Job.
    • by Nemyst (1383049)

      My classical mechanics teacher used the technique described in TFA, or at least a derivative of it. It was the single most interesting class I've taken at university, and that's despite the subject matter being rather ordinary.

      The funny thing is that it would actually have been perfect for everyone, you included! If you actually want to learn and understand, you attend the classes and interact with other students all while actually solving problems instead of being a biological xerox. If all you want is "ta

    • by i.r.id10t (595143)

      Depends on the course subject...

      Statistics? Read the book, do the lecture, work the homework, take the test.

      Something more hands-on like Linux Administration, do you think you'd learn better with straight lecture or with some lecture and a lot of lab work, projects, etc?

      • by cayenne8 (626475)

        Something more hands-on like Linux Administration, do you think you'd learn better with straight lecture or with some lecture and a lot of lab work, projects, etc?

        True...but then again, it isn't like labs doing computer work like described, take interaction with other students in the same course. The admin life..IS kind of a lonely one as far as having to deal face to face with people very often.

        LOL...no such thing as Linux when I was in undergrad...

  • It does the simple stuff so we can focus on the hard stuff.

    • That is a good way of phrasing the question: what does it do? There is a huge push in teacher education of integrating more technology into classroom instruction for its own sake. It is my opinion that if the teacher has to find a way to integrate the technology, then it's already pointless.
    • Increases Revenue (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Buying books for class? You'd better buy the new book, with the online access code. That way you can access your online assignments and do your homework. God forbid you buy the used book and fail the class.

      The book racket has reached a new level of thievery. How much for the access code you ask. That depends. It could be as little as $75, but is could be a real value at $150.

  • Hmmm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday August 24, 2012 @01:41PM (#41112933) Journal

    Any word on what percentage of them shudder and/or spew corrosive bile if you sneak up behind them and whisper "Blackboard!"?

    • God, I hate Blackboard. I mean, really really hate it.

      If GOPHER and Usenet were good enough for me, they're good enough for my students.

      • by gatzke (2977)

        I have resisted using blackboard for over a decade.

        Toady I polled my class and they unanimously did not like it.

        I will continue to distribute course materials from an online web page. I will continue to email the class.

        And I will continue to edit pages in vi until the day I die.

        • by BKX (5066)

          My schools rely on Blackboard too, and most of my classmates hate it. I find it to be quite useful, when used correctly. Grades go on BB, as should homework submission, quizzes and tests for most subjects (watch out for formatting issues with code snippets, profs who give CS quizzes on BB), and course documents (assignment spec sheets, syllabuses, etc.). What shouldn't go on BB? Discussions. Seriously. BB's "forums" are shit. They're a pain in the ass to read, a pain in the ass to post, and a pain in the as

          • by gatzke (2977)

            If I don't do online assignment submission and I hand back graded tests in class, why should I use blackboard?

            A simple web page with a few pdfs seems to suffice for me but I am waiting to be convinced otherwise.

          • The problem isn't so much that 'using the internet to exchange documents' is a bad plan(because it isn't) but that Blackboard's specific offering in that area blows goats through capillary tubing. At least it's expensive and buggy, though.

          • I used to feel like you, until I TA'd a class. Oh my god. It's so staggeringly awful to input grades in anything conceivably approaching an efficient manner that most people download the grades as an Excel file, edit that, and re-upload it. It worked alright, as long as you didn't fiddle with the structure. Half of my CS classes have grading scripts that read files and batch email grades to everybody because it's less painful.

            Basically, Blackboard makes some things easy for the student... and some things ea

      • me too. Blackboard sucks hairy alpaca balls. For all the reasons mentioned here, but here's one that is SO obvious, it hurts:

        You can't upload a folder of documents directly. You have to MAKE a "Folder" and then upload each file individually. A complete time wasting pain in the ass. Fucking retarded. Drag and drop has been around HOW freakin long? This isn't rocket science - it's just Blackboard being retarded.

        RS

      • Perhaps more importantly, GOPHER and Usenet suck less than Blackboard...

    • by i.r.id10t (595143)

      Or Angel (which was improving until BB bought it)

      • by Urza9814 (883915)

        Oh god, don't even get me started on ANGEL. I basically rewrote half of it's functionality for a couple clubs I was in because nobody could stand using that piece of crap. I never saw it improving -- and I can't tell if it was actually getting worse or if that was just my perception due to finding a new bug nearly every time I logged into the damn thing. So glad I no longer have to deal with that, although my new employer's internal system almost makes me miss the days of ANGEL...

        (Things like navigating to

  • of use and understanding of classroom technologies among my professors. Some are very skeptical and perhaps a little afraid of using the management software (we use CTools which is open source and pretty awesome). The biggest difference in adoption that I notice is between colleges. The professors in the school of education use way more technology and with much more confidence than my liberal arts professors.
    • Technology is awesome, but teaching is an art form no matter what the discipline. It involves interacting with people and helping them to develop and learn. If a teacher is not interacting directly with the student then they are doing that student a disservice. Management software is great for holding grades, averaging, and printing reports, but it doesn't tell me which student studied four hours to get the same grade as a student that studied one hour. That information can be found in their eyes and their

      • I couldn't agree more. I'm studying education and there is a pretty sizable push for teachers to adopt technology in the classroom seemingly for its own sake. I'm not in favor of this. If the teacher (or professor) has to figure out some way of integrating the technology, then it is alredy pointless.
        • I used to teach home schooling for elementary aged students with developmental challenges but never actually college level. Using technology in teaching was never something that was thrust on us, interacting and giving the students the personal attention they needed was our number one goal. If you have the opportunity to try something like that try it but don't expect good pay.
           

  • In other words, professors are ordinary human people?
    • With regards to technology adoption, yes I guess. But no I wouldnt call most professors ordinary human people. Most are very eccentric.

  • I'd like to know why the medical profession isn't embracing technology. They still use antiquated 20th century tech: i.e. fax machine. It would be nice if you could email your doctor and save yourself time and money with a followup visit. The doctors could determine from the email if patients needed to physically come in or the doctors could determine that the patients didn't have to come in and they knew enough to prescribe the next step. If it is about wanting you to come in for a follow-up visit so they
    • > I'd like to know why the medical profession isn't embracing technology.
      I'd love to know that too. The only thing that seems to make sense is that probably because they dislike change and/or don't see the benefit in adapting to the customer to give them what they want / need.

      > The doctors could determine from the email
      Sometimes face-to-face conversation is more efficient for the *doctor* in terms of time for *conveying* information, but yeah, from a scheduling point of view it is terribly inefficien

      • by Jaxim (858185)
        I can't wait until we live in a world where we can electronically contact a virtual doctor (i.e. IBM's Wilson) and describe our problem, take pictures, webchat, etc, and the virtual doctor could triage and determine if we needed to see an actual doctor, or if it was a simple problem that a super computer could recommend some treatment. Obviously, even if the super computer thought we had something serious (i.e. cancer), then the super computer would recommend we see a real doctor and the super computer coul
    • by Githaron (2462596)
      Probably because of legal reasons. Any change is uncharted territory and therefore a potential legal nightmare.
      • by Jaxim (858185)
        Every situation is different. Some situations can safely be accessed over email, while others cannot. I had a situation where I had to pay out of pocket instead of relying of health insurance. In that situation, the doctor embraced email. So I don't think it is a legal restriction. I think it is because doctors don't see us patients as the customer but they see our health insurance plans are the customers. In the case, when I was the customer and there was no middleman like health insurance, the doctor cate
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As a doctor who has been involved in the start of multiple electronic records systems in multiple clinics and hospitals, I can answer your question partially. Really it's two reasons:

      1. Privacy. In some ways it's easier to lock down paper charts than networked records systems. You have a chart, one person has that chart at a time, and it's in one physical location. Networks get hacked, electronic charts can be viewed by multiple people at the same time, can be copied and pasted into emails readily, etc.

      2. P

    • *shrugs* The higher the degree, the greater the hubris. If you have a lot of power, money, and / or authority, you are well-insulated from the small bumps, but also somewhat deaf the need to change. This is why some offices are so badly run -> paper filing cabinets, calling someone as opposed to texting them, and visual basic 6 apps with access backends refuse to die, and also why a big change, even with plenty of notice, can wipe out a large company.

      I imagine that if I had 3 PhDs, a JD, a MD, and a MBA,

  • Students (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dtmos (447842) * on Friday August 24, 2012 @01:58PM (#41113117)

    The professors I know say that "technology" has had a bigger effect on their students than it has on themselves -- specifically, their lack of concern with plagiarism. Having grown up with Google and the Internet, when asked to write a paper discussing, say, the contributions to Twentieth-Century culture of recently-deceased Lithuanian tennis champions, the students' normal way of research is to Google the topic, find a relevant web site, copy the material, and present it.

    They're often shocked when the plagiarism is noted and the fail the assignment because, after all, the paper is on-topic and factually true (let's suppose); what's the issue? The concept that one needs to come up with his own ideas and opinions is often a foreign one to someone who has grown up using the web as an immediate source of all the world's knowledge. I suspect, but of course cannot prove, that developing one's own opinions was an easier and more natural thing when one had to search multiple libraries for bits and pieces of the subject matter here and there; often your opinion developed over time, based on the facts you were able to find, and the order in which you found them.

    Students (and professors) have been plagiarizing since the second piece of paper was made, of course; the new issue is that many students today do not see a problem with it. Because of this, the highest level of technology some professors use is their plagiarism-detect software.

    • by fermion (181285)
      Some professors clearly blame "technology" for all the ills of the world. That is, they blame the greater access to smart phones to reducing attention span and limiting the ability of student to read college level texts. Before the blaming of smart phones, many blamed MTV, or action movies, then Drugs, Sex and Rock and Roll. Going back further I suppose they either did not try to educate or blame the boggie monster, or whatever. In any case these professors are crazy. In any case in the last 50 years we
  • by paleo2002 (1079697) on Friday August 24, 2012 @03:30PM (#41114365)
    I'm an adjunct professor at three local colleges, so I get to experience a variety of educational technologies and IT departments. My frustrations don't come from the technology itself, but from the policies administrators and the IT staff implement. All three schools have a campus email system for students, faculty, and staff. But two of them are web-based systems that do not allow auto-forwarding. I have to manually log in to the clunky web-based system and sift through a mountain of intra-spam. The feature exists on these platforms, according to my research, its just been disabled. I guess they want to make sure we're all using the outsourced webmail system they spent millions of dollars importing from the late 90's.

    When it comes time to submit my grades, one school's system flips a coin each semester to decide whether it supports Mac users. Not whether it supports Safari, not "the Mac version of Firefox" or even "the Mac version of IE" but logging in from a Mac computer at all. When I call the registrar's office, they claim to have never supported Mac. Except, they did. Last semester.

    One school has a laptop loan program for faculty and students. We can request to borrow a laptop to run our classes with. For one month. Then we have to return the computer and resubmit the request. The same school installed 3M Smart Boards in many of the classrooms. They have loads of cool features, but the remote controls and digital pen devices you need to use them all disappeared within months of installation. Now they serve as very expensive white boards.

    The list goes on . . . None of these are failings of technology, but how technology is implemented. I often get the impression that the people in charge of acquiring, installing, and managing tech at my schools are being brought in from the business sector. They are attempting to implement methodologies and policies suited to smaller, homogeneous work environments. Classrooms aren't office buildings; faculty and students use tech differently from the office staff.
    • Me too. We have lock boxes for the remotes but whenever I actually remember the darn thing what I want is not in the box.

      IT is underfunded and they seem to have temp student workers as filler for real IT. I had to fight to get external email access which they do not advertize but I knew they had it. They will not turn on IMAP or POP even though I know their server supports it. They had unix systems and now it is all windows crap; including the incorrectly implemented MS DNS server and the occasional issu

      • Oh good, I'm not the only one who hates white boards. Expensive markers that constantly walk out the door, special erasers, special cleaning solution because the markers aren't all that erasable . . .

        I love technology and I genuinely have no idea how people got through college without the web and email (lots of camping out in front of professor's offices I guess). But some times if its not broke, don't fix it. Chalkboards have been cheap and effective for a few thousand years. It also helps remind you t
    • Just change how your browser reports itself. If your website locks out Android browser, tell it to identify as iPhone. If Macs are locked out, tell FF to pretend its Windows Firefox. I love this crap. I mean just love it. My school doesn't support Chrome, but our Blackboard only supports Chrome for several key features. And not Chrome from last year, but Chrome from umpteen versions back. If you try to use it, and it doesn't work, and you're on a newer Chrome the IT people are "that's not supported." If you
  • by scruffy (29773) on Friday August 24, 2012 @03:47PM (#41114661)
    As a CS instructor, I use Blackboard for homework and program submission, for posting solutions and for recording grades. Nothing else. Making a full-fledged web site out of Blackboard is too terrible to think about.
  • This is really interesting, as there is some anxiety within the public university system about tenure and LMSes, and how with the private institutions you have the freedom to implement them, whereas with public universities, there is a lot more resistance to things the faculty sees as wasteful.

    Also, to run a really good flipped class, the time investment is rather insane. You might be spending less time working on powerpoint or whatnot, but you've got an email queue to deal with.

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