It seems to me that education is having a pretty rough time grappling with technology. As I write this article, Moodle is down, and this morning my school e-mail didn’t work. On top of that, I just had my biology lab canceled because the license on the software expired and it takes a week to restore. If you’re a music student, you will be familiar with expired licenses or out of date copies of SmartMusic or Finale. On a regular basis professors will admit they dislike or can’t understand Moodle, and the online textbook my French class uses has consistent problems. While these are all local examples, it is not strictly Concordia’s problem. All of academia struggles with how to best implement technology in the classroom.
The problem seems to stem from the fact that teachers and professors are being forced to implement technology into their curriculum. In trying to “update” their courses, they are not making progress. Instead of taking meaningful steps forward, they are all too often trying to cram a square peg into a round hole. Our teachers understand their topic, but aren’t able to figure out how to successfully combine their objectives with getting students onto a computer. It would be the same to force teachers to implement horses into their class. They have a horse. They know it’s a horse, but they have no idea what to do with the horse. This horse doesn’t really apply to music theory, but they have to have it there, and the horse isn’t giving them a whole lot of options.
For example, take the online textbook I mentioned earlier. While it’s a nice “21st century” idea, it’s not up to par. The nice thing about having a physical textbook is that you can actually hold it in your hands. First off, I don’t want to pay $140 for a password to a website, and if I do pay that site, I want a hard copy to go along with it. Offering a “companion” version for another hundred dollars doesn’t cut it either.
An online textbook is subject to all possible computer problems, either on your end or the website’s, and any number of hardware problems in-between. To rely solely on this is a mistake, and simply put, makes my life harder than it needs to be.
In trying to engage our generation on what appears to be “our turf”, professors are overextending themselves. Due to a lack of familiarity with technology, a teacher’s strength in his subject is lost. He’s left grappling with the unknown. Thus, the role of technology in the classroom becomes a token object – an assignment on Moodle or another arbitrary requirement to force a computer into the learning environment. The quality of the education experience is sacrificed for the sake of having technology involved in the process.
Take the Smartboard technologies – the interactive touch screen white-boards that display a computer image – and their varied uses. I’ve had teachers entirely misuse them. In high school, I had a German teacher who was all too fascinated by the whiz-bang features and lost sight of what she was teaching in favor new activities featuring the glorified projector. The best use of them that I’ve seen is when they are integrated into the classroom simply – the professors who use them as an all-in-one projector-and-whiteboard instead of constantly switching between the two.
There is clearly a need to implement technology in education, as our world is continually developing in that direction, but we need to take more time and care in how we use it. We cannot simply insist that it be crammed into the curriculum. If this happens, we will all have to suffer through the consequences. Old-school book-learning may be time-consuming, but it’s still the best way to go
A class of 2013 psychology major with chemistry and biology minors, Patrick joined the Concordian as a contributing writer for Arts & Entertainment before writing and editing for the Opinions section.