The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a new study authored by a UGA sociology PhD candidate with some interesting findings:
the study, “Technological Change and Professional Control in the Professoriate,” includes interviews with more than 40 professors at three universities. It suggests that professors often use such technologies for logistical purposes rather than to improve learning.
“There is little or no indication that innovative pedagogy motivates technological use in the classroom, which sort of flies in the face of how the use of information-based instructional technologies is usually presented,” said David R. Johnson, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Georgia and the study’s author.
Instead, the report suggests, technology is more often used by professors for managerial reasons, such as to help with the demands of growing class sizes. While Mr. Johnson said most college administrators are not yet requiring professors to use instructional technologies, the pressure of teaching more than 300 students at once, for example, leads faculty members to adopt technology in ways unrelated to improving learning.
“You’re being told that you have to shoulder a larger and larger share of the burden, and here’s some technology that will help you do it,” said one anthropologist quoted in the report.
Mr. Johnson said the findings show a gap between how universities market their use of technology—often framing technology as more sophisticated than prior approaches to instruction—and how the faculty actually uses it. He called this a “ceremonial myth.”
We can be both proud of our technological capacity and honest about its utility. Our reliance on technology, for convenient access to information and to streamline administrative communications, has never been greater; but how dependent are we upon computers for our work? As a writer, I often turn to pen and paper. But I also frequent the library, keeping a modest list of fines by making use of that ancient form of technology - books. This is one of the points alluded to above: the more important aspects of learning haven't changed so much, and it's important to acknowledge this, as well. I suspect that, whatever types of tablets, laptops and other devices they arrive with to campus, students quickly realize their success comes down to good notetaking, lots of reading and getting better at writing. No doubt, technology abets the development of these skills - but flat screens and smartboards are only going to get students in the door. The rest is up to us - and them.