“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” -Arthur C. Clarke

5 Reasons Why Professors Should be Excited about Technology in the Classroom

By Emily Kroboth

The year is 2015, and technology has never been more personal. Nearly 2/3rds of Americans own a Smartphone, with access to social sharing sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. We use technology to work, connect with friends overseas, to look up restaurant reviews, and an abundance of other things. The Smartphone, tablet, laptop and Smartwatch have allowed us to synchronize and organize ourselves, optimizing productivity in both our work and personal lives.

So why is there so much fuss over incorporating technology into the classroom?

Speaking from the perspective of both a student and a digital native, it boggled my mind when on the first day of class, my professors sat students down and started discussing the ‘danger’ of technology in the classroom, and how it can not only affect our education, but can also distract our peers. Well professors, I would like to take a moment to wash away your fears. Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t be worried about technology in the classroom, but instead be excited about it.

1. There’s no way we’re leaving our phones & tablets at home. So use this to your advantage!

I have owned a cellphone since I was in the 6th grade. Over the years, my phone has gone from a communication device, to an extension of my life. A recent study suggests that male college students spend an average of 8 hours a day on their phones, while female students spend an average of 10! So, we probably have our phones in your class. But wait! Don’t be upset, because this can actually be a good thing. If you choose to use classroom interaction software, your students will not only be in their digital element, but forced to pay attention and engage because their device is facilitating the lecture. It’s hard to be on Facebook when you have to answer 5 questions about the material that was just discussed. Passive teaching breeds distraction, while engagement breeds learning.

2. If we’re not paying attention, it’s not because of technology. It’s because we’re not engaged.

People haven’t been paying attention in class for generations-it’s not just us! Sure, we may have new outlets for our distraction because of technology, but who’s to say that that’s worse than the note passing, whispering, and doodling that took place before the digital shift? Truth is, the only reason students aren’t paying attention during class, is because they aren’t being engaged properly. I have gone entire lectures without looking at my phone once, because the material was that engaging. But even typically dry or uninteresting material can be made engaging if tested right then and there, in class. By providing students with an engagement platform, you are giving them an outlet for their learning, and getting an idea of whether or not the information is sticking. This is not only helpful for students, but helpful for professors too-if too many students are misunderstanding, it’s an opportunity to go over the material right away, as opposed to finding out on exam day and having to retroactively bell curve the final.

3. We really are here to learn. We just learn differently from how you did.

I’ve said many times “I don’t understand how people graduated University before the Internet”. The thought of having to go to a specific place, like the library, to acquire certain information is completely foreign to my peers and myself. Technology allows us to know pretty much anything at the click of a button. So if we’re interested in something in class, we’re probably going to look it up right then and there. This doesn’t mean we’re not interested in what you’re saying, this just means we want to know more, and we were raised to know more now. So please, don’t misinterpret our behaviour as lazy or disrespectful; it’s simply the digital world that we live in. In fact, we want you to encourage us to know more! We are digital detectives, so giving us the chance to dig up information and share in class excites us, and is just one example of how we DO want to learn, just a little differently.

4. We want there to be two (or more!) sides to the conversation. Let us share with you!

There’s no better way to lose student interest than to talk at us for an hour and twenty minutes. We want discussion, we want debate, and we want to contribute to the conversation. Professors are educating some of the most open, free-thinking people, a freedom that is facilitated by the internet. By giving us the option to type out our thoughts and contribute to an ongoing discussion, professors are giving us the opportunity to really contribute, and to really think. Not only that, we want to know the perspective of our peers, and to think about ideas from more than just one angle. Obviously it’s impossible to hear everyone’s thoughts in an 1000 person lecture hall, but when you teach using an interaction platform that allows us to contribute, we not only feel that we are being heard, but it gives you a chance to steer the conversation based on what we’re communicating to you.

5. If you let us use our cellphones and tablets, we’ll never forget to bring them.

Pen and paper? Easily forgotten. Clicker? Oops, looks like I left that in my other purse. But my phone and tablet? Always with me. By letting us interact in class with you via our own devices, there’s basically no chance of us not being able to participate because we forgot them. There’s also very little chance of students giving each other their personal devices, in order to skip class. My phone is like my child, and even my best friend is not allowed to baby-sit. The use of personal devices curbs academic dishonesty, so professors are always certain that the answers they’re getting, are from the students that are present.

So there you have it. Five reasons why technology in the classroom isn’t going to hurt productivity, but actually engage students and increase learning. As a student who will shortly start her fourth year of University, I can only hope that my professors will be open to letting myself and my peers learn how we do in every other aspect of our lives: by using technology.

Top Hat is designed to connect professors and students in the classroom and to create a more engaged and active learning environment. If you’re interested in a demonstration of how Top Hat can be used in your classroom, click here.


Originally published at blog.tophat.com on October 19, 2015.

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