The Academic Minute: Technology & Education



On the Academic Minute, The Phantom Vibration Syndrome,” Robert Rosenberger describes the sensation of feeling your phone vibrate, when it actually has not vibrated at all. In a study of undergraduate students, approximately 90% reported that they experienced this “phantom vibration syndrome.” When medical staff were surveyed, approximately 70% experienced the syndrome. Although many have experienced it, only less than 2% consider the syndrome bothersome. There are many speculations as to why this occurs, including:

  • “Brain wiring” form phone useage creates cognitive pathways, which lead to the misinterpretation of other stimuli as phone vibrations.
  • Perceived phone vibrations are a side effect of a general rise in anxiety caused by technology.
  • The perceived phone vibrations are caused by a learned bodily habituation, meaning our bodies are trained to feel an incoming call or text, and thus experience the “phantom vibrations.”

On the Academic Minute, The Digital Divide,” Marshall Jones discusses that internet access has increased by 153% from 2010-2012 in North America and by 3,606% on the African continent. One-to- one programs (one computer/device for each student) are helping to close the “digital divide,” which is the separation between those with and without access to internet and technology. With one-to-one programs, internet access is almost equal to living in a city with access to a large research library.

  • A few pros of one-to-one programs are they allow:
    • creative ways to manage classrooms (45 degrees-laptops half closed)
    • free wifi hotspots for those without access at home
    • unique ways to shrink the digital divide
  • A few cons of one-to-one programs are:
    • they are expensive
    • they allow too much screen time
    • there is not enough administrative support and professional development for teachers
    • vendors oversell the benefits

Lectures – Relevant or Redundant?

In ‘Are lectures the best way to teach students?’ from the Guardian, a handful of academics discuss whether or not the traditional lecture, synonymous with higher-education for many years, is still relevant and effective in today’s climate.

Bruce Charlton, a reader in evolutionary psychiatry at Newcastle University believes that we are now seeing a pale imitation of what used to be the ‘best pragmatic way’ of teaching those who wanted to be taught. Charlton bemoans how, in this day and age, lectures typically consist of a whole host of different problems concerning both the lecturer and the students. He paints a picture of a several hundred strong group of inattentive, heavily distracted students who are passive recipients to an interminably long and unenthusiastic PowerPoint presentation, of which they may have already seen online. Despite this claim, Charlton explains that the art of lecturing, when properly executed, is on par with live theatre and musical performances. In order to achieve this, high levels of effort and concentration are required from all involved. Without the positive involvement from diligent students and charismatic lecturers, Charlton fears that we are witnessing a decline of what has the potential to be a valuable and memorable learning experience.

University teacher Sam Marsh and senior lecturer Nick Gurski from the mathematics and statistics department at the University of Sheffield experienced such a decline in lecturing first-hand. In their first-year classes, Marsh and Gurski saw how attendance was becoming a major issue; almost half of the class stopped attending lectures by the end of the semester. Despite attempts to improve the syllabus, update the materials, add tests, and even change the lecturers, the problem still remained. In response, Marsh and Gurski decided to replace lectures with a series of short, filmed, online videos appropriate to the specific topics. The goal was to allow students to watch the videos at a time most convenient to their needs and then carry out a short test. Marsh and Gurski discovered that this new format succeeded not only by getting the students to learn and attend to the material on time, but also in improving students’ exam results. Due to the success of this new format, Marsh and Gurski concluded that, in their experience at least, lecturing is no longer a viable or effective way to best teach their students. Although these are just the opinions of a small number of educators, it provokes some important questions:

Is this newfound dependence on technology a positive step toward improving students’ potential to learn? Through moving away from lectures, are we losing what, as Charlton stressed, is an ‘irreplaceable’ medium of teaching? Do they still have a valid place in colleges and universities?

YouTube Education

In What Teachers Can Learn From Vsauce’s YouTube Show, Jessica Lahey interviews Michael Stevens, one of many internet educators who are effortlessly engaging children across the nation. His YouTube education channel, named Vsauce, has managed to attract 8 million subscribers and amass around 700 million views. The channel is home to a mixture of scientific and philosophical explorations in which he imparts a wealth of entertaining knowledge to his audience.

It is not inconceivable to imagine that many procrastinating students around the world have been victims of YouTube’s addictive and distracting nature. Channels such as Vsauce are able to take advantage of our love of technology, and children’s predilection for video-based entertainment.

In the article, Stevens articulates a number of factors that he believes help to engage his young followers.

First, Stevens highlights the importance of knowing your subject inside out. It is one thing to know and to understand the concept, but being able to clearly and concisely explain it in a way that leaves no confusion or ambiguity is paramount.

Stevens, too, stresses the importance of tailoring vocabulary to the learners needs. He recommends that teachers assume their students are intelligent, but unfamiliar to the subject specific jargon.

Lastly, Stevens urges other educators to point students in the direction of further resources so that they can continue their learning outside of the classroom and begin to self-educate.

Lahey concludes that Stevens’ approach is “to teach so people don’t even realize they are learning”, and that YouTube, which has proven to capture students’ imagination, is an ideal forum for this method of teaching.

For a link to Vsauce’s channel, click here 

A New Foreign Language?

Most schools around the country (both at the primary level and in higher education) offer some type of foreign language class. The foreign language(s) offered in a typical primary school usually depends on what foreign language(s) is predominantly used in the school district community and/or the country. Colleges and Universities on the other hand offer foreign language courses based on student interest, languages predominantly used in the US and the most commonly used languages in the world. But what about languages that aren’t exactly foreign and not necessarily human either?

Technology is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. About every month or so a news site will list the top five career opportunities available or the five most needed professions or even the five top college degrees, and those lists always list at the very least one career or degree that involves working with technology.

So with technology as prevalent as it is, why don’t more people learn its language? A recent article in the New York Times announced that people are learning the language. Classes on computer code are filled with people wanting to learn the language of technology. Some of these people are taking these classes in order to make a future career move. Careers working with technology are plentiful and will most likely still be needed several decades in the future. In fact, if technology keeps expanding there will probably be more technology fields popping up in the near future. However, many of the people in these classes are there to help improve their technology skills so they can succeed at the jobs they already have. Considering it is a rarity for a business to not have a website, blog, or social network page it is definitely a good idea for people to become more acquainted with the technology they use every day.

With such a need for computer courses these days it is no wonder that colleges and businesses are offering up free or cheap courses. Even most libraries have staff members that will happily teach you about technology. However, many it is important to know what you will be learning before you enroll in a course. Many programs want to make sure students are more than proficient using a specific piece of technology while other programs teach the basics of several aspects of technology. The important thing to remember though is that if you want to learn more there is most definitely a course out there for you. For more information on this topic read the New York Times article “A Surge in Learning the Language of the Internet,” by Jenna Wortham.


Teaching With Technology II

Tom Rosenberger, Instructional Media Technology, discussed technology use in the classroom, how it is used, and how it can be improved. A student survey at Saint Rose showed that over 30 percent of the students who were surveyed believed their professors understand technology and integrate it into their classrooms. The survey also showed that close to 50 percent of students said their “professors believe that technology can be a useful tool and they encourage students to use it.” Another survey showed that the vast majority of Saint Rose Professors “want and believe” they can use different types of technology in their classes. These technologies include MP3 players, video conferencing, video cameras, and smartphones. Rosenberger further cemented the realization that technology is wanted in classrooms by stating that more than 2/3 of colleges in the United States consider online learning and tools to be just as effective – if not more effective – than regular classroom learning. Rosenberger referred to today’s college students as being a part of a participatory culture. A phrase which he described as meaning, “a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal membership whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices.” This type of culture is why it is so important that professors integrate technology into their classes. Several useful tips were given to those teachers who feel they are not capable if integrating technology. These tips were: follow the course goals, refer to colleagues or other educators for help, and consult with the media technology specialists on campus. So what are these educators to do when their students come calling for help? First they should make sure their students know who they are and what they are capable of helping them with. If the technology isn’t working make sure the students know it is the technology’s fault. Make sure to scaffold the projects to help students. And finally, teach the students to use technology to help themselves (use Google).

View Tom Rosenberger’s Prezi

Dr. Silvia Mejia, Assistant Professor of Foreign Languages Department and American Studies Program, discussed a technology project she used as final project for her Spanish 203 class.  The students were challenged to make a trailer for a fictitious movie. In their trailers the students were to speak Spanish.  Dr. Mejia gave the students a list of topics they must discuss in their videos. The purpose of this assignment is to further cement the vocabulary the students have learned throughout the class into the students’ minds. Dr. Mejia’s students even stated that they will never forget any of the lines from their trailers because of the amount of memorization, practice, and number of scene takes it took to make the videos. Basically the repetition the assignment called for allowed the students to be immersed in the Spanish language while filming the trailers. Dr. Mejia mentioned at the beginning of her presentation that immersion has been proven to be a more effective form of learning than memorization.

Trailer Guidelines

Dr. Jennifer Marlow, Assistant Professor of English, discussed Pecha Kucha, a presentation based assignment. Pecha Kucha is a Japanese term for “chitchat” or “20/20.” Dr. Marlow said that the purpose of this form of presentation is to “avoid death by PowerPoint.” So, what is Pecha Kucha? It is a PowerPoint presentation that has advanced slides (20 seconds per slide). Each slide contains only a single image or phrase. The text can be no smaller than 32 point font in order to keep the information per slide small. The images can be original or found and 20 seconds of video may also be used. The visuals can be used to further solidify a point or argument. This type of presentation allows for a closer look at materials. The combination of language and visual is meant to make the presentations more memorable and less over stimulating as many PowerPoint presentations can be.

Dr. Marlow’s Pecha Kucha Assignment

Pecha Kucha Evaluation

Fair Use of Online Video

Podcast of the February ProVisions Session on Teaching with Technology

The following YouTube video was part of Tom Rosenberger’s presentation and is mentioned in the poscast.

The Amazing World of Technology

Everyday new technology is created. Jokes are made that by the time a person buys the new version of a piece of technology another newer version will come out the next day. In fact some people avoid using technology all together because they don’t want to have to adapt to new rules every time an upgrade becomes available. However, for every new program or piece of technology created there are dozens of resources to help people learn to use them. Articles on technology pop up every day with tips on how to use technology to better the workplace, home life, and education. For instance, online classes are so common today some schools offer entire majors in an online setting.

Professor Hacker recently wrote an article called “7 Strategies to Make Your Online Teaching Better.”  The first tip for professors of online courses is to use online tutorials to help avoid the many bugs that come along with using technology. Tutorials can be the next best thing to sitting in a classroom with the professor. Tip number two is to remember that students taking online courses are not in a classroom setting. Therefore they are not in the structured setting that a physical classroom has to offer. Tip number three is to set specific times students should be online in order to discuss any pertinent questions or talk through difficulties students may be having with the course. While they may not be meeting in a classroom students will still appreciate the time set aside to focus solely on one course. Tip number four is something all types of teachers should consider. Be specific with details and feedback. E-mail students what they should be doing for the week and don’t worry about length. The lack of physical class time should be replaced with online help. Tip number five is to make sure your personality doesn’t get lost in cyberspace. Make sure you come across as human instead of as a piece of technology. This will make it easier for students to communicate with their online teachers. Because online students do not see their professors on a weekly basis they do not receive the reminders that most other students receive about due dates. Tip number six is to have online students set up some sort of calendar that will remind them when assignments are dues. There are several online tools that will send e-mail alerts or text messages when important assignments are coming up. The last tip Professor Hacker has applies to all teachers. Don’t be afraid to incorporate something new into a course. The worst thing that could happen is that something doesn’t work out and will have to be replaced with a different idea the next time around.

Professor Hacker – a blog from The Chronicle – is known for posts about technology, and in recent weeks has published several enlightening pieces on how technology can improve existing lesson plans. For example, the post “All Things Google: Using Google for Writing Portfolios” highlights the upgrades using Google Docs has for creating writing portfolios compared to the more traditional ways of creating writing portfolios. Not only does this help save the environment by limiting the amount of paper creating a portfolio requires it also allows students the ability to be more creative, to share their work, and to easily create an electronic portfolio for all of their writing. A sample portfolio is also available for viewing on the blog site.

Professor Hacker doesn’t just recommend using Google Docs for portfolios. In the post “Using Google Docs to Check In On Students’ Reading”  Brain Croxall shared one of his experiences with using spreadsheets in Google Docs. The program allowed him – and his students – the ability to see where the class was in their reading. He was able to adjust his daily lessons based on the information he was receiving online. The spreadsheets could also keep students who were ahead in their reading from devolving too much information to the rest of the class.

Many times the writers of the Professor Hacker blog ask readers for feedback on using technology in the classroom. One product of this feedback was the post “What Are Your Favorite Technologies in the Classroom?” This post has blogger George Williams sharing his best and worst technology experiences as well as asking others to send in their own classroom technology experiences. Williams’s worst technology experience is the time wasted by waiting for computers to load and students to log on. This post seems like the start of a discussion board where teachers can share their ideas and experiences.

With so much focus on using technology in the classroom it isn’t surprising that a company is working on making an online class that is free. Steve Kolowich from Inside Higher Ed reports that a company called Udemy is currently working on a project that could offer online courses to hundreds if not thousands of students for free. While these courses are not yet offered for credit, the creators are trying to get enough exposure to make these courses a possibility in the future.

Kolowich wrote another article for Inside Higher Ed – “Behind the Digital Curtain”  – that discussed the possibility of inserting new courses into college programs that would teach students about the technology they use every day.  Students use online tools in for school and for their personal lives; however, they are rarely shown how these tools work. Kolowich goes on to list several reasons why these courses would be beneficial. One of the most important benefits he lists is giving students a deeper understanding of the technologies that impact their daily lives.

While free online classes are not yet a reality, online tools are. lists “8 Ways Technology is Improving Education.”  From online gaming to student made videos to videoconferences between students from different countries, the internet offers a multitude of tools that can make learning fun and improve the education students receive. New ideas pop up all the time and are available for teachers in every grade level from kindergarten to graduate level courses.

Professor Technology

The New York Times has given technology another praise worthy review in the article “A Scholarly Role for Consumer Technology.” It seems many Parisian Business schools have begun using everyday technology such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Students are given access to these online tools through tablets such as i-Pads. Schools such as Essec believe these social media sites are much more resourceful than other programs that cost money.

Using free social networking sites allows professors to keep in contact with students both inside and outside the scheduled class times. In large lecture halls it is often easier to send a message using technology than to raise your hand and wait to be called on. The article also mentioned the use of electronic textbooks (see post Personalize Your Textbook); which can make using classroom textbooks a whole lot easier for students.

These business schools have found an effective and inexpensive way to make their classrooms run more smoothly with technology that many of their students are already well acquainted with. Maybe in the future more schools — not just business schools — will begin to use this type of technology to better their classes.