Technology has been praised, criticized, and feared in the classroom. The tumultuous discussion of “pros and cons” is all the more evident in today’s new media landscape. To this day, many instructors resist the incorporation of technology for a number of reasons. To some, the idea of new media in the classroom is frightening because it requires us to acquire new technical knowledge. Do I even have time or want to take the time to learn how to use Word Press or Twitter? The same concern relates to students: will new media technology widen the socio-economic technological, digital divide? Will students pay attention in class, when they could easily be on Facebook or shopping for shoes? How would technology benefit my students’ learning?
We have to discuss both traditional and technology based teaching and learning.
Traditional Teaching and Learning
The traditional learning model requires students to sit attentively and take pencil and paper notes as a professor lectures at them. For decades, this has been lauded as the best teaching and learning model. Even though students are sometimes encouraged to ask questions, by and large, this is to a more top down, teacher/student divided environment. Indeed, this was the way that many teachers learned during their years as grade school, university, and graduate students. However, is the traditional lecture model the most effective today? Are students learning more this way?
I’d like to briefly depart from my broader questions to some anecdotes from my career as a graduate student. In my first year of graduate school, I recall being in a course where we were told by the professor on day one that no technology was allowed. Notes were to be taken with pen and paper no laptops, tablets, cell phones, or the like. At this time I was all on board with this idea, as I learn best (or thought I did) when I listen and take notes on paper. Based on my years as a student, I had learned that writing things down helps me understand concepts.
This bled over into me as a teacher where I imparted the same set of rules upon my students. I promised my students that going one hour without their cell phones or laptops would not be painful, and that I would make things as interesting and engaging as possible. In my evaluations, I had no complaints about this method. This method must have been working, right?
Teaching with Technology
The adoption and incorporation of technology in the classroom is often talked about as at odds with the traditional method of teaching (i.e. pros and cons of each method, rather than how they could be blended). Various studies have boasted how beneficial technology is in teaching and learning. One high school teacher talked about how he used Twitter in his classroom, and how it encouraged more students to participate.
He found that students felt more comfortable sharing their ideas through a medium that they were already using on a daily basis, and, even the kids that typically were shy or didn’t have many friends felt like they could fit in.
Another argument for the incorporation of technology in teaching and learning is that it prepares our students for the workforce by gearing them with the knowledge and skills required today. Learning new media and related software is more than a resume booster. For many jobs, having a basic understanding of a variety of social media platforms and software will be the minimum requirement.
Indeed, many of our students want a career in social media related fields and these jobs are aplenty. Countless job posts are looking for “social media strategists”. When we would have put programs like Microsoft Office or Photoshop on our resume under the “skills” section, this newer generation of students might note proficiency in Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, WordPress, Tumblr, and Buzzfeed.
My Changing Orientation as a Teacher
The notion of a traditional teaching method and classroom was complicated when took classes of my students. Since my early days as a teacher, I have loosened the reigns and allowed students to use their cell phones, tablets, and so on in the classroom. When I cannot answer a question, I invite them to Google the answer which has fostered richer classroom discussions. More than anything, this shift has empowered students. The classroom feels much more interactive, engaging, and interesting.
What do you think? How can media and communication studies benefit from technology in the classroom? How do we, as media and communication scholars and teachers, best serve our students?