Tech in classroom not always distracting

Professors should update education practices to 21st century standards

Story by Martha Landry, Editor in Chief

At the Centennial Hall dedication ceremony on Feb. 7, Chancellor James Schmidt reiterated the idea of taking UW-Eau Claire into the 21st century.

The new building is equipped with technology that students will encounter in the real world. It also sets the tone for a new teaching method.

“It’s time we added something that mirrors the university,” Schmidt said about the newest building on campus.

If anyone has had class in Centennial, they know the classrooms are at the cutting edge, with interactive learning centers, learning pods, large monitors to assist with classwork, new projection screens and other technologies to advance traditional teaching methods.

The technology is set to most directly benefit education majors, but a variety of classes and majors are utilizing it. As Schmidt said, the building is helping the entire university take a leap in its educational practices.

It is often said that the millennial generation was raised by technology. We were the first to have Facebook, Twitter, iPhones and iPads. According to a 2012 Student Senate Information Technology survey, 97 percent of students own laptops. In the College of Business they are even required.

A study titled, “Integrating Technology into the College Classroom: Current Practices and Future Opportunities” from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill called millennials good students who expect success from hard work. But it also described Gen-Y students as streamlined, highly communicative and interactive with short attention spans and high demand for information access.

The statement above described me and my learning methods accurately. Sitting through an hour-and-a-half lecture where a Powerpoint presentation, notes and a lecture are the only stimulus is very difficult for me. I find some professors’ resistance to integrating technology into their classroom interesting.

Jane Pederson, Eau Claire history professor, said she doesn’t allow laptops in her general history courses because they are a distraction in the classroom.

“I know from reports in the past that (students) aren’t always just taking notes,” Pederson said. “There has been research that when technology is being used it’s very distracting for other students and it interferes with their learning.”

Pederson is not the only professor on campus to have these opinions. In some of my journalism classes technology is not allowed.

I can understand a professor’s concern that students will be distracted and not be taking notes continuously, but (this is coming from a doodle master) I will find distractions anyway.

I will tune the professor out and begin working on a to-do list or draw random pictures or straight up scribble. Having a computer in front of me not only helps me stay awake, but it allows me to check D2L for more information or pull up the Powerpoint slides right in front of me.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just addicted to having a glowing screen in from of my face. But after living so many years of a constant connection to technology, I function more effectively when I have all of my documents on one platform — aka “the webs.”

What was refreshing about the University of North Carolina study was it referred to college as “adult learning.” The study breaks “adult learning” down to six key concepts. These concepts include life experience, self-directed pursuit of education, results-oriented, goal-oriented, a level of respect for their instructors and peers, and direct application to one’s life.

This is something that professors do need to consider when limiting student access to technology. We are adults. I assume that the vast majority of students on campus are at least 18 years old. Professors should be able to give students the benefit of the doubt and trust that we can monitor our technology usage to classroom-appropriate business.