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Education IT News Technology

Professors Rejecting Classroom Technology 372

CowboyRobot writes "The January edition of Science, Technology & Human Values published an article titled Technological Change and Professional Control in the Professoriate, which details interviews with 42 faculty members at three research-intensive universities. The research concludes that faculty have little interest in the latest IT solutions. 'I went to [a course management software workshop] and came away with the idea that the greatest thing you could do with that is put your syllabus on the Web and that's an awful lot of technology to hand the students a piece of paper at the start of the semester and say keep track of it,' said one. 'What are the gains for students by bringing IT into the class? There isn't any. You could teach all of chemistry with a whiteboard. I really don't think you need IT or anything beyond a pencil and a paper,' said another."
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Professors Rejecting Classroom Technology

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  • by crazyjj ( 2598719 ) * on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:00PM (#42862645)

    At my university, the CS department are, counter-intuitively, some of the most reluctant to use our online capabilities and classroom presentation tech. I'd say about half of the CS profs still want everything handed in hard-copy and don't even post their syllabi online. And we have a pretty robust system for online content too, if a prof chooses to actually use it. But many don't want to even touch it.

    You would think programmers would be more comfortable with computers.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:09PM (#42862803)

    The old college system is not cut out for today's needs and today's tech / IT settings.

  • by kromozone ( 817261 ) on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:15PM (#42862901)
    You can't highlight every piece of text, run a search on it and then spend hours jumping from one wikipedia article to the next, losing track of where you even started. You can't take a screen grab of an amusing typo, caption it, and post it to some social media network. No little bubbles pop up on your piece of paper to let you know you have a new instant message, email, completed download, software update or follower... Perhaps class in a Faraday cage isn't neo-Luddism, but a practical lesson in focusing on one thing at a time for 40 minutes straight.
  • Flash Cards (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cab15625 ( 710956 ) on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:16PM (#42862947)
    The most common thing that I see in chemistry is that online resources are used to post powerpoint slides for first year courses. This is mostly done as a concession to placate students who complain that they can't follow the lecture if they don't have something to follow. Fair enough I suppose. The problem comes when students then go to study for exams and think that a few collections of what amounts to flash-cards are sufficient to study from and are shocked when not a single question on the exam ever appeared in lecture (though all of the concepts were there, and all of the concepts were explained in even more detail in the textbook).
  • by Covalent ( 1001277 ) on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:16PM (#42862949)
    ...and I can see why technology is not more thoroughly embraced. For starters, the OP makes a good point: How hard is it to keep track of a syllabus? If you're the kind of person who can't keep a piece of paper, or who can't enter the important information from that piece of paper into the data device of your choosing, you're probably not going to do well in the course anyway.

    But more to the point, learning technology is almost always more suited for the student than for the instructor. I can project a video on the screen and talk about it, but students who sleep during lecture are still going to sleep through lecture, and students who pay attention will learn either way. For students on their own, the technology can be more useful. I have used technology, and will continue to, but it's not a major part of my instruction and I could easily do without it entirely.
  • Get a Horse (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:17PM (#42862959)

    >>>You could teach all of chemistry with a whiteboard. I really don't think you need IT or anything beyond a pencil and a paper,' said another."

    Or with Khan Academy, without the $10,000 upfront.

  • by PeterKraus ( 1244558 ) <> on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:19PM (#42863001) Homepage

    Well, I have to say, from personal experience, the best received lecturers in my undergrad course have been those, who used pen + paper and an overhead projector. The speed of writing was just right, and it also helped to understand the (organic) chemistry quite a bit. Hello, Dr. Sutherland.

    I do appreciate that other parts of chemistry - mainly physical and inorganic, and even more advanced organic chemistry - are bit more difficult to draw on the spot, but some of the slides our lecturers have published are absolutely inexcusable.

    In any case, I believe the lecture material should be available online at some point - and by that I mean all of it. This bullshit of "I will print ultra boring slides with 50 slides per lecture, with gaps, so you pay attention" was, frankly, not helping. Also, I believe all lectures should be recorded and posted online - maybe after the whole course is over - too. Size is not an issue, and the students are already paying for that content, and it doesn't cost the lecturers anything extra, once set up properly.

    But interactive electronic classroom jazz in university-level chemistry is either good for the computational chemistry lab, or a waste of time.

  • by jythie ( 914043 ) on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:20PM (#42863005)
    I suspect it is less that they are uncomfortable, and more that the are unimpressed. Though if they are not even willing to do basic stuff like posting documents online that is a bit odd.. though thinking back, not all that surprising either. Last time I got to play with one of those 'professors, get your stuff online!' packages that are peddled to universities, the barrier to learning it and getting it to do anything useful were pretty high, esp since the most people generally wanted out of it was 'act like a damn ftp site'.
  • Soo many factors (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sir_Sri ( 199544 ) on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:57PM (#42863747)

    One first needs to keep in mind that the VAST majority of university professors are basically parents needing tech support people. They're in their 40's or later, they don't have time to be trained on the technology, assuming the training exists, and they aren't capable of taking advantage of it anyway. The ones who *are* capable already have solutions in place, and have for ages and don't need whatever the latest 'Blackboard or WebCt etc. product is. If you think it's a pain in the ass teaching someone to use their iPad (and that's bad enough) now imagine that all of their screwups effect a class of 1500 people.

    Technology doesn't help a lot in the classroom itself. Well, it does, in that powerpoint slides are a vast improvement over a lot of other types of slides, and if you use a slate/tablet you can write on your own powerpoint at the front of the room. But writing on the whiteboard is helpful too. You *need* to pace yourself when at the front of the room, and if any of my students care to pipe in on this, I am terrible at pacing myself with powerpoint, but it can be done, and done very well by some people but not me. Of course my writing is basically illiterate scrawl so I have to use powerpoint.

    The backend stuff. Getting assignments electronically is great. But it's actually really hard to mark things electronically, or at least efficiently. Yes you can write on PDFs and use all of the revision tools in Office or the like, but it's usually a lot faster for me to take a printed paper copy and put marks on it than it is to manage an electronic copy. I could write my own software to manage this a lot better than any of the tools out there because its very problem domain specific. If I have students writing an algorithms assignment I need a different type of submission than a iPhone project. I don't write my own because just doing it by hand for 20-30 students is good enough.

    Marks on the web are hugely valuable. Both for me and for students. Students can look and see what the grades are at any time, and I can make a change and students know I've made the change. So that's fine. There are the usual security concerns (TA's including me when I'm TAing and not teaching) can make changes to grades on webct, and in a big class I have no idea if a change was made to something, or if that change was because the TA got a blowjob, or discovered and error in their marking, or just has a crush on redheads.

    The multiple choice 'clicker' nonsense is worse than useless. First you make every damn kid buy some special device they only need for a handful of classes. Then you have to manage the bunch that are broken. Students that forget them, get them confused with someone else's. Ugh. Not worth it.

    Online quizzes and that sort of thing... I could take or leave. I don't think they actually add much. Too easy to cheat, too easy to have IT problems make things go badly.

    In classroom IT is also a problem because every damn classroom is different. I went to do a guest lecture at the place I did my MSc. They have a standard classroom setup for audio-PC-projector-screen, and I knew that going in. But I got to that specific class and... I couldn't set my computer anywhere I could access the screen or see my notes to myself while talking. And the 'screen' was actually touch sensitive. So rather than pointing at something on my slide to talk about I kept having it interpret my points as gestures. Bloody nuisance.

    In classroom IT isn't 'owned' by any of the teachers, so none of them feel particularly responsible for it, and as I say most of them are computer illiterate at best (even in CS), where they might know their way around linux, but not Windows XP with whatever specific hardware configuration or the like. So you go into a class expecting to play audio, and... nothing. So now what is it? Is the audio muted, are the speakers unplugged, where was the audio muted etc. And this isn't my computer, so even if it takes me 15 or 20 seconds to figure it out, which isn't

  • by null etc. ( 524767 ) on Monday February 11, 2013 @04:06PM (#42863891)

    The term "Computational Science" is the most spot-on clarification I've heard applied to computer science, in my 20+ years of academic and professional programming.

  • Flipped teaching (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Monday February 11, 2013 @04:52PM (#42864569)

    I don't see the point of a lecture anymore. Why not make each class into a movie and show that movie? Then have lab hours to work on the problems.

    This is actually the core of a pretty significant modern trend, "flip teaching []" (or "inverted instruction", or a bunch of similar names), in which lecture is done through video (usually delivered online) outside of class time and class time is used for student work with direct instructor interaction, essentially reversing the in-class lecture, out-of-class "homework" model.

    OTOH, if you've spent an entire professional career getting things down under the classical educational model, I can see why you'd be resistant to adopt new models over what you've made work well.

  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) * on Monday February 11, 2013 @05:04PM (#42864729)

    A professor cannot teach 300,000 people.

    Of course not. But 300,000 people can watch one professor's lecture. Teaching is more than just lecturing, but by delivering the lecture to a mass audience, you can divert a lot of resources into other aspects of teaching.

    That's nothing more than a video presentation, which no more replaces an actual teacher than a book is a substitute for a class.

    So do you also think we shouldn't use books?

    What you're describing isn't bringing technology to school. It's just using technology to send information.

    No it isn't. You should visit a modern "flipped" classroom. The students watch the lectures online at home, and do the "homework" at school. The teachers don't lecture, they teach , mostly one-on-one with any student that is having problems. By using mass lectures, you are not commoditizing education, you are freeing up resources so that you can customize it for each student.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 11, 2013 @05:06PM (#42864775)

    I knew a student who graduated with a 90+% average with a CS degree and he had no idea how to use computers. When I asked him about this, he explained how he realized early on that the assignments where only worth 5-10% of the class mark in the few courses that required actual programming but took a significant amount of time so just skipped them to study/memorize for the exams. He should have gone for a Math major but he figured their was more money in CS :(


  • by toutankh ( 1544253 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @07:51AM (#42869973)

    This. I've been testing web education or whatever it's called this week. I did the same course with and without the "technology" addon.

    For the students: I didn't notice a difference. No more or less success. Good students are good, lazy students are lazy, nothing will change that. And holding their hand will just make them take less initiative, which is not a good thing for society as a whole.

    For the teacher (me): extra work, plenty. Also some waste of time (e.g. 4 hour meeting to brief us on how to keep a forum alive, wtf). No extra money, thank you. Also no taking this into account when evaluating my research (i.e. publications).

    For the people setting the whole thing up: yes, they got paid for doing something absolutely useless and wasting my precious time. They were quite happy with themselves, being convinced that they did something useful. I even heard "35% of the students are happy with the online course, that's very positive". My reaction "wait a minute, doesn't that mean that 65% is either unhappy with it or doesn't care about it?" was met with silence.

    My overall conclusion: thanks but next time I'll pass if I have the choice. And please, let the teachers do the teaching, not some guy from the I-have-to-justify-my-salary department who thinks that technology can solve all problems and that whoever doesn't agree just needs to open their eyes.

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