Technology’s Role in Education

Technology’s Role in Education

Adam Cebulski

Senior Director, Office of Research & Strategic Initiatives, Campus Labs

A story published in the Wired Campus blog of the Chronicle of Higher Education contends that “professors at research-intensive universities believe” that technology is not improving learning in their classrooms. The article, "Professors Say Technology Helps In Logistics, Not Learning," analyzes a study published in the journal Science, Technology, & Human Values.

Just giving a professor a laptop won’t necessarily improve her classroom presentation, but I disagree with the study’s implication that it will actually hurt learning. It really depends on the class, the professor, and the technologies being used.

The study focuses on PowerPoint presentations, YouTube videos, and online classroom portals—none of which could be called ‘cutting-edge’—and includes interviews with 42 professors at three universities and “suggests that professors often use such technologies for logistical purposes rather than to improve learning.”

While it’s true that technology can be particularly useful in managing large classes, that doesn’t mean technology won’t also help in the classroom.

Several of the commenters agreed with me:

  • Robert Talbert wrote: “This is far more of an indictment of the state of teaching and learning at research-intensive universities than it is of the value of technology.”

  • cb_10 said: “All such studies can tell us is about the attitudes of faculty using the technology.”

  • kkfungc agreed: “If technology is not being used effectively to enhance learning, it is not technology’s fault. The traditional chalk-and-talk method produces abundant crops of failed students. And it’s no longer affordable.”

  • heasley wrote: “my first thought is that there are many different types of technology tools and one must use the most effective tool in any given situation. A screwdriver makes a poor hammer. What do these faculty members want their students to learn and what tools are they using?”

Including technology in a classroom shouldn’t be just about having the newest gizmo, but about how this piece of technology can further the goals for the class and the professor. PowerPoint can be used well, or poorly; YouTube can be about cat videos, or can teach you about Fibonacci sequences and plants (seriously, watch some ViHart. She’ll blow your mind.). It’s all about what you make it.

How are you using technology in your classroom?

Adam Cebulski

Senior Director, Office of Research & Strategic Initiatives, Campus Labs

Dallas, TX