Professors and students must ‘co-learn’ with technology in the classroom

Visual Communications Professor Josh Birnbaum teaches his digital imaging class in Seigfred Hall on Tuesday. (Brien Vincent | Staff Photographer)

When piling essentials into a backpack, conventional classroom staples such as notebooks and pencils are taking a backseat to tablets and laptops.

Both parties must adapt to classroom modifications and learn how to adjust to the rapidly changing technological advances.

Technology causes professors and students to become co-learners, said Teresa Franklin, professor of Instructional Technology.

“Professors and students both have huge access to materials 24/7,” Franklin said. “This leads to more project-oriented classrooms where you have more time for problem solving and critical thinking.”

Higher education has to prepare students for the workplace and continue to move forward, said Deborah Gearhart, vice provost for eLearning and Strategic Partnerships.

“The faculty members who don’t start integrating technology into their traditional lectures will lose the millennial students because (the students) are used to using technology,” she said.

The traditional classroom will become the 21st-century classroom by blending with advances such as lecture capture, Gearhart said.

Lecture capture allows instructors to record a lecture and post it online for students to view, said Jessica Makosky, the Distance Learning Operations supervisor for the Ohio University Learning Network (OULN).

OULN also allows for live videoconference-based classrooms at regional campuses that otherwise do not offer specific classes students might want to take.

“A majority of the time, students are going to prefer having a professor in front of them, but the nature of working professionals won’t hit synchronously, and it isn’t always practical,” Makosky said.

Some people don’t want technology to take over, but it is something that has to happen, Gearhart said.

“It’s not really a revolution,” Gearhart said. “It’s an evolution.”

Technology offers many options for instructor and student interaction, said Sean O’Malley, Information Technology communications manager.

“It makes it a lot more flexible as far as who you reach and when you reach them, as well as accommodating different learning styles,” O’Malley said. “It’s a double-edged sword, though.”

A community can become fragmented, because there are multiple possibilities available and not everyone will have the same contact preferences, he said.

Although technology can open doors, it can also put a halt to accomplishing work, O’Malley said.

“In the classroom, I think most people have a plan B, but from the administrative level, if the network goes down, everything comes to a halt,” O’Malley said. “It’s just a reality of the world we live in.”

Just having technology doesn’t make a better teacher, said Eugene Geist, associate professor in the Patton College of Education.

The younger generation already understands how to use technology, but professors have to expose it to students in a training environment, said Bryan Branham, interim chair of the Department of Aviation.

“One of the strategies we have is that we maintain a focus on old technology,” he said. “Students have to maintain the ability to function if there is an outage, so they’ll have the paper and the technology.”

The magic question isn’t about how to keep up, but how to decide when to change how we do something, Branham said.

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