Time to embrace ‘smart’ tech in class
Published: Thursday, September 1, 2011
Updated: Thursday, September 1, 2011 14:09
Every passing year students' bags and satchels are becoming increasingly lighter. Ubiquitous technological devices such as e-readers, smartphones and tablet computers enable people to carry an enormous amount of information in a small space. Not only do these devices make schoolwork easier, they also provide a more cost efficient way to purchase class required materials. Introduction of new technology often creates cultural lags as the public learns how to adapt them efficiently into their lives. This is especially apparent in the classroom, as many teachers are resistant to allow the use of smart devices.
E-readers are a great resource to access electronic versions of textbooks and other assigned reading material. E-books are extremely practical for students, such as English majors, who may be assigned several books to read over the course of a semester. Not only are electronic textbooks much cheaper than the hard copy, they often have extra features such as study guides and video lectures that can't be incorporated in the hard text.
E-readers such as Amazon's Kindle also include features that allow the reader to quickly reference a word with its built-in dictionary. Most e-readers allow users to make notes and highlights and conduct quick searches of the text using key words. Several textbook publishers also allow readers to purchase individual chapters. Since most teachers only use a handful of the chapters in the text, some publishers offer the ability to purchase individual chapters, which can be very cost beneficial to students.
One of the major disadvantages of e-readers is that there is no real guidance on how to actually cite sources from them. Kindle, for instance, has the ability to change font sizes; therefore it relies on location numbers rather than pages. A similar problem existed when Internet research became popular. Students basically had free reign on citing online sources until the authorities governing writing styles offered official stances. Students would be wise to consult their professors on their individual policies until proper citation methods have been published.
Smartphones are perhaps the most versatile and discouraged tools a student can carry.
The applications available to download onto these devices have the ability to replace many of the tools and gadgets that students carry. Instead of paying $150 for a graphing calculator, math students can download one for as little as 99 cents. Language translation apps give philosophy students the ability to translate text written in Greek or Latin. Their high-resolution cameras are great for taking pictures of a professor's whiteboard, giving students more time to pay attention to the lecture instead of writing notes. They are also good for recording lectures in both audio and video formats.
The most obvious reason most teachers discourage phones in classrooms is their basic functionality — to talk and text others, creating an easy means to cheat on examinations. If your math teacher does not allow cell phones out during tests then you may be forced to pony up the money for a graphing calculator after all. The best solution to this issue would be installing cell-phone jammers in classrooms that could be enabled during exams. The FCC, however, currently prohibits cell-phone jamming. Many bills, none of which have yet passed, have been put in front of Congress to allow the practice in prisons and other institutions.
Perhaps a better alternative to cellphone jammers would be an app that would require a professor to input a password or send a text message in order to re-establish your network connection upon leaving the classroom.
Students have been cheating in class since formal classrooms were established. Before cellphones they stashed small notes in inconspicuous spots, or slid their papers into the eyesight of their neighbor. Some got away with it while others were caught. If teachers are concerned about cheating then the best way for them to thwart it is by good old-fashioned observation. Many professors remain at their desks during exams. It is easy to see when a cellphone is out, so the best way to see everyone is at the front of the class. By not walking the classroom as teachers did in the past, they often overlook cheaters using old methods. It is the fear of being caught that discourages cheating. A teacher walking his or her class will be able to catch someone texting just as easy as they catch someone with a note out.
Adapting to technology is an ongoing issue. Students have come a long way from reserving library space to use the typewriters. It's only a matter of time before universities will be forced to utilize these new technologies. Students are always in need of more cost-effective ways to supplement their educational needs. The price of technology goes down over time while tuition rates are on the rise. It's only a matter of time when these technologies are standard, and new debates are taking place.