Blogs, wikis, videoconferencing? “No thanks,” say most professors; “PeopleSoft and PowerPoint will do.”
American universities have taken fire recently, from tenured academics like Andrew Hacker who claim its lost sight of its liberal arts mission, to college drop-outs like Bill Gates who think students can learn everything they need from the Web (this from the guy who thought the Internet would never amount to much).
Classroom technology to the rescue, proposes a new government report entitled “Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology.” Not so fast, counters a recent national study. This assessment, the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement, found that most professors who turn to technology gravitate to tech that helps them administer classes, like Blackboard and PeopleSoft, rather than technology that empowers student expression and feedback.
Only 13 percent of the professors surveyed said they used blogs in teaching; 12 percent had tried videoconferencing; and 13 percent gave interactive quizzes using “clickers,” or TV-remotelike devices that let students respond and get feedback instantaneously. The one technology that most teachers use regularly—course-management systems—focuses mostly on housekeeping tasks like handing out assignments or keeping track of student grades. The survey, answered by 4,600 professors nationwide, did not ask about PowerPoint, which anecdotal evidence suggests is ubiquitous as a replacement for overhead and slide projectors.
Should colleges do more to push new technology? Should professors throw out those yellowed lecture notes and start fresh (or at least update their jokes)?