This was a forum posting for one of my classes. My response started becoming so long that I decided to put it here. After all, it’s a question worth exploring. Here’s the full question:
Do we need technology to reach today’s learners? Is a chalk board enough? How did we ever learn before the computer?
I would say yes, we do need it — but not necessarily because low-tech methods don’t/didn’t work. Just look at some of the advances made by humanity prior to 1960. Clearly, people were quite capable of learning before computers invaded the classroom.
I say yes mostly because of student expectations today. Today’s students were likely born in an age where there were never not computers, video games, and the Internet. Technology surrounds them in every aspect of their lives. It’s comfortable and familiar to them. There was never a time that it didn’t permeate their lives.
With the age gap widening, and technology becoming ever more important in almost every professional field, students are becoming increasingly confused and/or disillusioned when instructors avoid bringing it into the classroom. From my own experience with higher-ed students, the teachers that try to avoid technology are seen — at least to a degree — as bring outdated paper-wasters that are out of touch with the world that today’s will have to live in. I’ve heard many comments to the effect of, “Duh! Why do I have to turn this in on paper? Do they even know that email exists?” I’ve also seen instructors roll out overhead projectors and heard a quiet chorus of snickers and seen a wave of eye-rolling. Student engagement in these courses was often unimpressive.
That’s not to say that what Dr. Overhead Projector had to teach wasn’t perfectly relevant/interesting/useful. He/she often had plenty interesting information to offer, but the impression made by his/her avoidance of technology turned students off quicker than a power-outage. Most of these students were in their early to late 20s. Many of them had lived before the advent of the Internet. How will students born after the Web respond to all-paper classrooms, overhead projectors, chalkboards and pencil sharpeners?