Our generation has become shamelessly dependent on technology. And why shouldn’t it? The latest and greatest technology gets things done faster, easier and more efficiently. Information is readily accessible when and where we need it. It has seeped into our daily vocabulary; don’t know what something means? “Google it!” Technology has adapted to meet many of our daily needs and wants. The rapid advance of technology has taken many by surprise, yet technological advancements continue to grow at an exponential rate.
With technology as such an intimate part of our lives and our future careers, it’s time for higher education to step up to the plate. It’s embarrassing how incompetent our university is when it comes to advancements. While a number of various problems exist, it is still possible to single out a few we can address.
More often than not, technological investments are wasted by poor application. I’m sure most of us have experienced “clicker” problems in class. Clickers, the small handheld devices that allow students to electronically answer questions on-screen, are a great way for teachers to receive immediate feedback to know if students understand the concepts taught in class. However, most of us have experienced problems with these devices, and teachers have had difficulties too. Registering clickers is a nightmare; teachers can never seem to explain solutions and ultimately have to contact technical help soon after class begins. It took one of my professors last semester nearly two months to get clicker problems solved. It’s an all-too-common experience; one that’s no doubt responsible for hours of collective wasted class time for the entire university.
One of the most frustrating things to deal with is teachers who refuse to use Blackboard. Honestly, there is no reason for teachers to make their own websites for specific classes. Creating additional websites to provide access to extra information on difficult subject matter is a great idea, but unfortunately this is not the case for the holdouts who choose to avoid Blackboard. Many teachers create websites that consist of nothing more than links and announcements. That’s exactly what Blackboard is, my dear professors.
Regardless of how bright and attractive your website is, it is still an inconvenience — Blackboard offers a daily, seamless link between one student and each of their professors. When one professor declares him or her self to be the exception, however, that link is broken; a student can miss valuable information from that other site, or fail to understand the dynamic of the new site altogether. This semester I’ve had to look in five different places to check for assignments and announcements I am responsible for as a “professional student.” I only have five classes.
San Diego State and the California State University system have provided us with technology that has the potential to be very effective; the problem is few know how to use it. Would it be too much to ask that teachers be instructed on how to use this technology effectively? Many instructors won’t learn it on their own because they have no reason to. Some of them have been using the same lecture notes for the entirety of their teaching careers. From their comfy throne of job security, the best way to educate has already been discovered; or at least the easiest way to educate.
A technological boot camp would be a highly effective way to instruct teachers about the various forms of technology provided for them. Training seminars are a common and practical way for employers to help their employees adapt to the ever-changing demands of their respective professions. If professors were required to attend a day or two of extensive technological training, we would see the quality of our teaching increase. There is no reason that education, especially so-called “higher” education, should remain stagnant. A new wave of students are entering SDSU with higher GPAs and higher expectations; let’s rise to the demands instead of reveling in statistical prestige.
Technology, of course, should be used intelligently. Teachers shouldn’t be using new technology simply to make their lives easier. Online homework can be an amazing resource that provides students with quick, interactive help and immediate feedback. But it’s a slippery slope — some teachers are tempted to assign unreasonable amounts of homework because the computer automatically grades assignments. Technology should be used to enhance education, not a means of supplying a teacher hours of kick back time on their La-Z-Boy.
That being said, there is no replacement for a great teacher. Why do we go to live concerts when we have the same music on our iPods? Because it’s not the same. We must do everything we can to make education as effective and enjoyable as possible. Let’s embrace technology and take a bigger step toward our full educational potential at SDSU. Teachers need to learn to adapt — and I applaud those who have. Universities are for the education of the students after all.
—Jacob Clark is a biology and Spanish junior.
—The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.