Tuesday, September 16, 2008

This is what professors fear

Laptops. I have seen this attitude of banning electronic devices in the classroom. I sympathize. It is somewhat disconcerting to stare out at a classroom full of screens and not know for sure if students are paying attention. Although I think professors being replaced by laptops is extreme, I do think that faculty aren't thinking very critically about what to do with electronic devices in the classroom:
What I see happening is that professors aren’t making the decision to accept the inevitability of technology infiltrating the classroom and finding ways to integrate these mediums into their lessons, but instead what they choose to do is to bring all of the students down to a level of engagement where theirs is the only voice that can be heard. They hope that without any competition, the students attentions will naturally drift to them, but this tactic is doesn’t solve anything in the long run.
Instead they are trying to force things to remain as they've always been.

The solution that this blogger suggests is:
The correct strategy is to upgrade the professors. Give professors the opportunity to integrate these new social media channels into their lessons so at least we’re communicating at the same level. From there the way to stop laptops from being such distractions is to get professors to be more interesting and add some real value to the educational process.
I appreciate the sentiment, but I have to laugh too. From my perspective, I've been trying to "upgrade" professors for about 6 years. There've been plenty who have, mostly on their own, but there are still some TRS80's out there and even some mainframes. I certainly think there's more ways to give professors the opportunity to work with social media, but currently it's not on their priority list. In the mix of teaching, research, and service, learning new technology is way, way at the bottom. And honestly, for the mainframes, it's not just about new technology, but a whole new world. Figuring out that new world requires some time to immerse oneself in it for a few weeks or months and I can't imagine that most faculty will take that kind of time. I think this blogger is right that something's gonna give at some point, but our educational institutions are pretty rigid when it comes to integrating technology with pedagogy.