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How Relevant is Technology to Learning?

June 11, 2009

A former student of mine (Kevin Morris), who has since gone on to do great things, sent me an e-mail today asking for my opinion on a blog article entitled Will Universities Stay Relevant?

This is my response…

Interesting article…

Firstly, MOST of the students I teach are NOT like you!  You must understand that students like yourself are not the norm in terms of being in touch with the digital world and having the passion to use the tools available to them in the pursuit of knowledge.  Most of these students head off to university (and our new inflated grading system is making it easier) with little self-initiative and passion for learning.  I have been using technology in the classroom for 3 years now but I still fall back to the lecture style often because most of my students are not mature enough to embrace student-directed project based learning.

That being said, the first two years of university (as I recall them) are designed to “weed out” those who really do not belong, so to speak.  Although most of my professors in the 80’s and early 90’s used the lecture style, their classrooms became more open to critical thought and discussion after second year.  From what I am told, this is still the case.

Right now, I have reached a point in my classroom where I cannot proceed any further with student-driven methods due to lack of technology and support.  We do not have the bandwidth nor the requisite hardware in place to allow students to develop their critical thinking skills using web based applications.

I sympathize with the universities somewhat.  Many of these professors grew up without technology and are now being pushed to adopt it.  The process will take time and embracing a digital pedagogy does not ensure critical thinking skills will be developed.  The passion for learning must come from the students and that passion is something that transcends generations.

What I mean to say is students, like yourself, who have a passion for learning always embrace the latest technology the world has to offer to enhance their critical thinking skills and understanding of concepts.  The fact that you are using Twitter, etc. to accomplish this is no different than a student in the early 1980’s using one of the first computers to be more productive or a student in the 1950’s using a slide rule to do the same.

We need to work on fueling the passion for learning if we want to produce a generation of critical thinkers.  I try to use technology to inspire students to become passionate about knowledge.  The technology on its own is merely a conduit to critical thinking.  The passion for learning must come from within.

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