December 4, 2009

Pauline Newton, a lecturer in English who teaches “Critical Thinking and Argument: An Introduction to College Writing” to first-year students, encourages students to bring their laptops to class and take notes.

“They were born with fingers on the keyboard,” she says. “They are so used to computers, and they’ll be using them in the real world. I don’t fight technology; I embrace it.”

She finds that teaching students to write and communicate well really hasn’t changed much through the years.

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In some ways, technology has made it easier, she says. For example, while helping students craft thesis statements, Newton shares the process with the entire group using the real-time collaboration capabilities of Google Docs, a free Web-based application offered by Google.

Students generally monitor their own use of technology in the classroom, she says. “They know that if I see them using their phone or Facebook during class,
I’ll consider that when factoring class participation in their grades.”

Laurie Campbell, director of Undergraduate Programs, Department of Teaching and Learning in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, exposes her students to “as much technology as possible so that when they go into the K-12 environment, they’ll be able to take advantage of all the technical tools available to them.”

Students in all of her classes also keep their computer use in check. In fact, they sign a contract that governs how they can use it and what the ramifications are for breaking the rules.

Boeke, who teaches a media and technology course, believes part of the modern university’s mission is to engage students in the latest technology so they’ll be competitive in the marketplace, he says.

“Even in my classroom, it’s annoying when everyone is on Facebook, looking at email and surfing,” Boeke says. “But those same students are often the first to find some new, useful information online.”
– Patricia Ward

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