Technology in the classroom: Good for logisitics. Good for learning? Maybe not so much.

There’s a report in The Chronicle of Higher Education (online: Jan. 28, 2013) about a paper that appeared in Science, Technology & Human Values (April 2012) entitled, “Technological Change and Professional Control in the Professoriate.” That’s not a very revealing title, but the abstract is a bit better:

Scholarship on technological change in academe suggests that the adoption of instructional technologies will erode professional control. Researchers have documented the pervasiveness of new technologies, but neither demonstrate how technological change is experienced by faculty nor collect data that permit assessment of consequences for professional control. Drawing on a sample of interviews with forty-two professors at three research-intensive universities, this research makes two contributions to existing research. First, in contrast to existing depictions of technological change in higher education, the findings reveals that academics perceive instructional technologies to have limited value in enhancing education and that technology use is rarely motivated by pedagogical innovation. Second, the study suggests that a relationship between technological change and ‘‘unbundling’’ of the academic role may be overstated. These data indicate that technological change threatens professional autonomy through exclusion from decision-making processes, increased workloads, and delimited
teaching and research roles.

As the first commenter in The Chronicle wrote:

Is anyone really surprised by this finding? It is good to have one’s gut sense confirmed, however. At my institution, technologies go begging for users. “Here’s this great technology,” the nabobs tell us. “Use it in the classroom!” But we are never presented with models of how it might be used to improve our teaching, because the people foisting it on us have NO IDEA how it might be used. It is just new and cool and sometimes useful in a managerial sense. Technology DOES have its uses. It is great to be able to return work to my students directly, rather than lugging around the sad little stack of never-collected papers. It gets the work back faster to the students who would have picked up their papers anyway. But it doesn’t address the students who aren’t engaged any better.

It ought to be pretty clear by now that CTE understands this issue and is working hard to address it. What do PowerPoint, YouTube videos, clickers, and online portals do for our students and how does it enhance their learning? We all want our students to be engaged learners, but are we faculty up to the task of being “engaged sharers”? What — other than logistical convenience — has technology added to your classes? What worked? What didn’t? Can 15 minutes be spent on these questions at an upcoming faculty meeting in your department or school? Or a brown-bag lunch hour? Can CTE help facilitate these discussions? Let us know.

About Thomas Mayo

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