Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Vision of Students Today

The advances in technology have simultaneously connected nations to each other and isolated individuals from their next-door neighbor. Children know more about computers than their parents. Teachers are losing touch with ways to keep their student’s interest. The digital age is constantly reinventing itself and leaving older generations in the dust.

Use of computers and the Internet in the classroom has been an ongoing discussion between school boards and parents for a few years now. The lack of proper training among teachers, and the seemingly over abundance of knowledge about computers that students have is increasingly become a wedge that keeps technology from working in the classroom.

The younger generations are becoming more computer-savvy all the time. Only a decade ago, handheld computers were an oddity. Now, anyone can access the Internet with gadgets the size of a calculator. Kids want the newest trend and the trend is technology.

Many states across the U.S. have started programs to supply laptops for students called the 1-to-1 Initiative. The hope is that students with personal computers will be less likely to skip school and be more engaged in classroom learning. In May of 2006,New York enacted the 1-to-1 Initiative, which promised an overall improvement in student achievement. By May of 2007, many schools in New York dropped the program because students had been using computers to cheat on tests, download pornography, and hack into businesses. In April of 2007, the United States Department of Education released a study showing no difference in academic achievement among students with or without computers.

There are no restrictions on laptops in most college classrooms. Students often use them for note taking. Some teachers encourage the use of computers among students in order to help them learn the technology they will need when they graduate. Journalism majors at Sacramento State are encouraged to take computer related classes because of the way news writing has continued to grow on the Internet.

Students use computers for more than just note taking though. Most students spend their time on myspace or craigslist. Instant messaging is quickly replacing those annoying, lecture-interrupting phone calls. The college student who is surfing the net instead of paying attention is the one who suffers. Why should teachers care whether students are paying attention? They are paying for their education; it is their choice what they do with it. The distractions come for those who actually are paying attention and are taking notes. It is very difficult to pay attention to a statistics lecture when the person sitting in front of you is looking at pictures of Britney Spears giving a beaver shot. Even the clickity-clack of typing on a keyboard can make it hard to listen to the professor.

One good thing about Internet access for students is that they are able to search for more information about a subject while a professor is talking. If an art teacher is discussing the importance of Stonehenge, a student can do a “google” search and discover more interesting facts about the manmade anomaly.

However, Internet use in the classroom has become such a distraction that some universities, like Bentley College, have set up on/off switches for individual classrooms so that teachers have the option of restricting Internet use.

The distance between younger digital savvy generations and older technologically challenged generations is too big right now to make any real advancement in classroom interactions. As these tech kids get older and start to saturate the workplace, they may find a way to incorporate education and computers, but for now, it seems that teachers and professors have not found that connection yet.

1 comment:

Michael J. Fitzgerald said...

It was good to have the video actually posted at the beginning of the piece, but a few more references to it directly might have made the column a little stronger.

Interesting direction - and startling statistic - about the study that says the DOE says there is no difference in academic achievement between computer users and non-users.

That seems unbelievable, though the earlier reference to students using computers to cheat, hack and download pornography was interesting.

I would like to see more on that study - perhaps in a subsequent column?