Teachers Worried About Technology in the Classroom
School may be out for summer, but the topic of technology’s place in the classroom is still in session.
Some universities such as University of Maryland and Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania are gearing up to give incoming freshman iPads or new Mac computers – or both -- in the fall, but there still exists an ongoing debate as to whether these devices are aiding or disrupting the in-class learning process.
“There is a fear that laptops are distracting students from the material and content of the class,” said David Weinberger, a senior researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. “On the other hand, there is a hope that class access to the Web would enhance a lecture. However, it’s easy to think you are going online for one thing and end up spending a lot of time doing another.”
Among the biggest in-class technology offenders: Texting, playing online games, perusing Facebook and watching YouTube or movies.
"You'd think they wouldn't even bother coming to class, especially when they are watching a movie and listening to headphones," said Heather McMahon, 24, a senior at New York University's School of Nursing program. "But many professors take attendance. If a student does poorly on an exam, they can cover themselves by saying they attended every session. However, what they are actually doing in class is another story."
McMahon is currently taking summer classes in the accelerated second bachelor-degree nursing program, which attracts a wide age-range of students. She recalls an instance where an older classmate in her mid-40s turned to a younger student who was looking at bridal gowns online during class and asked if she realized how much money she was wasting by not paying attention.
"Many younger students don't care because they’re also participating in some sort of multitasking activity, but it's easy to become distracted by them being distracted," McMahon told TechNewsDaily. "I tend to sit in the front of the classroom for that very reason."
It wasn’t too long ago that many educators fought to get laptops into the classroom. Now many are mandating that students leave them at home.
Some educators such as Diane Sieber, an associate professor at the University of Colorado, has taken matters into her own hands by showing students how excessive laptop use can influence what’s absorbed in class.
Sieber identified 17 of her students that were most often using laptops during lectures and noted that after the first exam, the tech-obsessed group performed 11 percent worse compared to their peers. In response, about half of her students started to put away their computers and as a result, test scores went up.
Sieber recently told the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper that students often ask their classmates, "Please don't watch movies on your computer, because if I'm behind you I can’t focus."
"Student laptops are disruptive of an old model of learning -- taking notes with a pen and paper emphasizes the gap between teachers and students, and students don't want to be told how to learn,” Weinberger said. "Those who have been brought up on the Internet believe they learn from peers and through various mediums, they just have to exercise precaution of the downsides when doing so during class."
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