Talking In Class

I recently read a blog post by Purdue eTech (Purdue Emerging Technologies), a group at Purdue University that “researches and investigates new technology trends for teaching and learning.” The post includes some key statistics from an interesting ECAR study of students at a number of universities around the country regarding their use of technology both in and outside the classroom.

As one who was guilty of regularly texting during classtime, I was not so surprised as the blog’s author about the high number of students who use cell phones in class for “non-class activities” (read: “screwing around”). I do have to wonder whether phones could be used in the classroom for positive educational and instructional reasons. Certainly, there may be apps for smartphones that instructors could use to help share information and resources, but many students don’t have those types of phones and many still have no interest in smartphone technology. The author suggests a smartphone requirement. But I don’t know how many schools/programs/student councils would go for that. Some schools are giving students laptops and iPhones as part of admission, but these are not always the average state-funded universities at the mercy of ever-tightening budgets.

Also unsurprising to me was the preference of (older) students to keep cell phones and mobile devices from the classroom altogether. Some more fastidious students are annoyed by others who are always tweeting or facebooking or texting during lecture. And then there are the instructors themselves. As the study suggests, many instructors may not be altogether familiar with available technologies or may have no interest in learning. Some old dogs just don’t care to learn new tricks but will be happy to let the younger faculty employ technology as they find it useful. Are we missing an opportunity here? Some would clearly say no. Some others are surely investigating the possibilities.

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About Steven V. Kaszynski
librarian, editor, contributor

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