Podcasts, Clickers, and Wi-Fi, Oh My!

Seems there has been more attention on teaching with technology just recently. If you consider the article and colloquy from the recent Chronicle of Higher Education that discussed the Millennial Generation and a new article in this week’s U.S. News & World Report, that’s two high profile pieces on how the needs of learners are changing, and how higher education is experimenting with technology as a means of revolutionizing how students learn. If your campus is like mine, then faculty are likely divided on both issues related to learners and the impact technology has on their learning process. Many are firm advocates and do all they can to push technology to its limits. Others are more suspect and would like to see concrete evidence that technology improves learning. And of course the majority are somewhere in the middle, dabbling with technology and implementing changes to their teaching methods a small step at a time. I’m a firm believer that technology has a place in the classroom, and students are increasingly expecting to find it being used. The divide tends to occur when we debate the extent to which technology should be used, and whether or not it truly helps to enhance student learning. While it’s important to pay attention to changing demographics (e.g., Millennials) and the ways in which technology might better fit changing student expectations, one needs to be cautious about buying the argument that learning needs to change right now and dramatically so. Based on what I’ve learned in the instructional technology courses I’ve taken at my institution, there is an entire spectrum of learning methods and media that we have at our disposal in creating a memorable learning experience for students. Some involve technology and others do not (i.e., lecture and discussion still have their place). Sometimes group learning is best, and at other times individual effort is more effective. The U.S. News article reflects that segment among both faculty and students who believe that technology, when used inappropriately or simply because it is there, can hurt learning more than it may help. We’ve all heard stories on our own campuses about students who will explode if they have to sit through one more set of PowerPoint slides (and you’ve surely seem them printing out endless pages of those slides that are now embedded in course texts and courseware sites). Our role as teaching librarians (or “blended librarians” as I like to say) is to become familiar with all the teaching tools and techniques at our disposal – just as we want our user communities to be aware of all the information databases and retrieval systems at their disposal – and to work at using them wisely to help students achieve learning outcomes. We also need to help our faculty do the same when it comes to library technology. Let’s remember that in addition to podcasts, tablet PCs, discussion boards, smartboards, clickers, and all the rest, that library databases have a place in the universe of classroom learning technologies. You won’t seem them mentioned in most mainstream articles about teaching and learning technologies. It’s our job to make sure students and faculty and integrating them into what happens in the classroom.

2 thoughts on “Podcasts, Clickers, and Wi-Fi, Oh My!”

  1. I find it interesting that in spite of the ubiquitous nature of information (and networks) on campuses today that libraries remain important – as a place reserved for academic work unlike, say, a dorm or student center, and as a place to meet other students while you do your academic work. I’ve also had a student say he doesn’t carry his laptop to the library when he really wants to hunker down and study; it has too many distractions on it, so he uses one of our public computers instead. So even for those students who multitask, sometimes they want to lessen the number of input channels.

    I also am struck by the issue of whether this “give ’em the information on whichever channel they prefer” might lessen the communal aspect of learning (learners as members of discourse communities). In a somewhat related way, the ability to pay attention to whichever news source suits you – and even limit what you receive to those stories you think will interest you – may mean we have fewer moments when something momentus is shared as a common experience. Brian Williams comments on the effect that Joseph Welch had on the nation when he faced down Joe McCarthy with a single question. Would we respond the same way if some of us were watching Fox, others CNN, and still others reading only the spin provided on their blog of choice?

    Another big question mark for me is whether this digitalizing of higher ed will create an even greater digital divide. There are more US citizens who don’t even consider going to college than there were twenty years ago – does all this frantic preparation for the wired workforce just leave them even further out in the cold? And if they do find a way to come to college, what are the chances they won’t have their pockets full of electronic gadgets, or come from school systems that have it all? Or are we leaving people who live in poverty out of this “millenial generation” definition altogether because their daily experience just doesn’t seem significant or mainstream? It’s a growing group – and we’re not doing a good job thinking about including them in higher education planning.


  2. Students today are using many tech gadgets and are very interested in using techology, but many of them are literate in a niche market–music, videos/games, pictures. Many of them do not use or play with all the gadgets out there and many of them do not know what to do beyond the ipod or the XBox.

    Herein lies the opportunity to use technology as a teaching and learning tool. In combination with books, databases, and Web sites, students can listen to radio spots, watch a podcast, or work through a Web Quest. This provides an array of resources and information with which students need to evaluate and synthesize.

    We need to combine “old” and “new” resources in order for these students to be conscientious and literate users of information and technology.

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