Technology and Teaching in the Future

I recently came across an article presenting ideas about how tablet technology, and mobile devices, will change the landscape of education, higher education included. This article was received on the heels of a three-day technology and education conference I attended in Silicone Valley Light, Austin, a couple of weeks ago. Here are a few thoughts I have about technology that are informed by information obtained at this conference as well as this article (there are many other articles I’ve posted that provide further exploration of the issues).

There is No Magic Bullet for Student Success/Institutional Growth
Technology is not a magic bullet. We will not see a boon in student success or growth at our institution simply because we give out iPads or require laptops for students. Technology is a hammer. A hammer does not build the house. It is the use of the hammer that builds the house. This is the first step in understanding how and why we should use technology. Latest and greatest technology means absolutely nothing without proper use and implementation to teaching.

We Have to Change
Since I have been at HPU, finishing up 5yrs, there have been enough computers on our campus, via labs, for students to have been engaged and taught with technology. The tools are and have been available. So, how are we doing in utilizing our current tools to enhance our teaching, help our students succeed, and in recruiting and retaining students through constant communication? I am an advocate for one-to-one technology, every student having a device. I am also an advocate for a standard device across campus, such as the iPad, so that we can have standard technological requirements for our students.

In music we often talk about teaching in the same vain we ourselves were taught. For me, I constantly have to examine my teaching so that I don’t fall into this trap. I’m not implying that I received poor instruction, on the contrary, but my students are not entering into collegiate studies with my experience. While I grew up in a high tech environment it is not even close to the environment our current students are coming from. For our future students their tech environment will be even more complex and integrated into their everyday lives than students on our campus. With this thought in mind I say we must change our philosophy, our pedagogy, our approach to teaching, so that we can better prepare our current and future students for success. Proper use of technology requires us as faculty to change our ways, our lecturing, our assessing, everything except our content expertise.

Amazon Knows Me Well
If you have purchased anything from Amazon you have probably seen the book or item suggestions at checkout or on the homepage. Amazon knows me very well. The data that Amazon has on me in astounding. It knows within a matter of seconds what my likes are, what my interests are, and it offers suggestions based on these likes and interests, with staggering specificity. Amazon gives me this feedback within seconds, no, within a second. Amazon is a website, a store, a place where I go to buy things, acquire books, download to my kindle, etc., not a person.

The amount of and types of data that we have on students because of technology is immense. We have research data thrown out at break-neck speed about what students are doing and how they are and will be doing it. What are we doing with this data? For most institutions of higher learning we are bringing this information to committees. These committees are thinking about the data; talking about the data; wondering how we can use the data; checking with administration about the data; bringing recommendations to faculty about the data; discussing the data; tabling the data; discussing the data again; voting on the data; putting a strategic plan in place about the data….

You can, hopefully, see the absurdity in my statement. By the time we have figured out what to do with the data those students we had the data on have graduated. The data is no longer relevant. We must speed up this process. Higher education can never be as fast as Amazon. We can, however, do a better job of using the data we have on students. How about we shoot for 4-6 months of analyzing and implementing changes based on data instead of 4-6 years. Amazon is giving us a BIG clue about how we can use data to better meet the needs of our current and future students.

Technology is always going to change. The pace at which it is changing will not slow done, either. To be successful in the future we must become co-learners with out students. Students come to education with a wealth of knowledge. It might not be exactly what we want them to know, but they come with differing levels of expertise (think Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed – particularly the “banking concept”). Students are also experienced incollaborating with others in the learning process. Instead of pushing them aside, or telling them through our actions that their knowledge is useless, what if we joined them in the learning the process? What would happen if we took our content expertise and paired it with their knowledge of information manipulation and broadcast?

I’m not there yet. I’ll never arrive. But one thing I must do is keep striving to meet the needs of our students.

What say you? What do you think about the article? Let me hear your thoughts on my stream of consciousness….



  1. Curly Cox

    I am a strong proponent of multiple pedagogical methods for accessing, disseminating, and assessing information. I am a strong advocate for multiple means of learning. Also, I am a learning user of technology who thinks that it is really cool to use. With that said, I have a few points I would like to make that are my observations, and only my observations.

    First, knowing that students have many devices in their possession that are interesting pieces of technology that could be used for multiple modes of learning, my experience is that few know how to use the device for purposes other than social media. The learning things I want them to do are not necessarily associated with social media. Yes, I know some want me to teach using social media, but I do not find it a practical means of educating students in my content field, and students share their frustrations with me about professors mixing the two, (learning and social media). Of course, these are just my observations. However, I have found it to be somewhat of an effective means of personal communication.
    Watching my own adult children working in the business world, it seems that social media is not used for in house communication, but for predominately marketing. Also, I have friends who own a public relations firm, and they tell me their young employees cannot get their jobs done because they spend way too much time on their personal social media, and cannot see the problem with taking time out of their work day to do this. So I wonder, if in our forward looking approaches to educating, if we run the risk of propagating a blurred understanding of personal social media and work related use of technology.

    Second, I see our world surrounded with really cool technology, and it may catch the fancy of our students when it is used, but my experience is that few of them understand the cost of incorporating that technology, and how it works. It seems to be eye candy for them, not so much a learning tool. They seem to want to consume through this media, but not produce. Again, this is just my observations.

    Third, I really want to focus on how the brain learns and not just alternate means of disseminating information. If technology really is a better way to engage the brain and enhance learning, then I am all for it. Yet, we also know that some technology, though interactive, is a brain numbing event. It can be hours of mindless interaction with a device. I encourage us to look at every aspect of how we teach for learning including our physical classroom design, structure of the time we spend in class, style of presentation of material, length of time we expect students to concentrate without an alternate stimulus, and many other traditional aspects of the traditional university classroom learning experience. I would love for us to discuss new things we are learning about how our brains function, how what we do in a traditional classroom encourages or discourages learning, and truely if the use of technological devices interact with the brain to enhance learning. Who knows, it might be that physical activity will enhance learning. Are we willing to incorporate that into the structure of our classroom?

    My first blog post ever, and totally my opinions.

  2. Lance Beaumont


    Awesome post. Even better that it is your first one. You bring up some excellent points (and I by no means have the answers).

    Having said I don’t have the answers, here are a few 😉

    To answer your last question first: yes, physical activity does enhance learning! We might want to look at having treadmill desks for our students to use during class (I’ve seen this in the corporate world and have read reports claiming increased productivity – the treadmills are only set at 1.5 or so, no running).

    My thoughts are far beyond looking only to social media, though it is an area of research. Research studies abound in the field of technology and student engagement, technology as a pedagogical resources, and increased activity/scores in regards to learning via technology. There is also a great deal of research looking into gaming. This research is actually revealing, astonishingly, that gaming improves learning (Jane McGonigal – “Reality is Broken”). In the US 92% of 2yr olds are playing games. Being the father of a 3yr old I can provide evidence. My son has a 3yr old understanding of every app on my iPhone and iPad. He can manipulate Angry Birds, Garage Band, play videos, and activate my iPod. Technological accessibility has never been higher, both in cost and use. I think we need to think about this and use this to our advantage. One point McGonigal makes about gaming is the concept of Eustress (positive stress). In education we tend to promote negative stress, think test taking, not positive stress. In gaming, gamers fail 80% of the time. This means that they receive immediate feedback about what did and did not work, and then get the chance to do it all over again. In education, we give students one or two shots, mid-term and final exam, to get it right. If they don’t we see them again in the next section offered. Gaming provides immediate feedback. In the XBox division of Microsoft their mantra is, feedback every 11secs. In playing a game you get some sort of feedback about how you are doing every 11secs. In education our students receive feedback in days or weeks. How can we expect content mastery if we cannot provide the type and frequency of feedback to which they are accustomed (watch some of our HPU students play World of Warcraft to see this type of feedback and how it changes their actions and “moves”).

    Your friends in business bring up a very important point about students and young adults in the workforce, lines are blurred. Why else would Google, Facebook, etc., have the types of work schedules they do? Productivity is not based on or a product of “seat time”, it is based on output.

    When we take this into education we should look more toward competency than time in a seat. This is where I think technology is taking us. 90% of my time learning has been accomplished through “seat time”, not competency. The other 10% I’m basing on my musical training, which is all competency based. When I have “mastered” something I move on to the next thing, not before. We are too concerned with having our students do things are particular way and in a particular environment, a lecture hall. Technology can give us greater flexibility in helping students gain mastery in a given subject matter, and the ability to gain this mastery whenever they choose.

    I must also interject that not all disciplines will be able to lean heavily on technology. Having said that, technology can still be used to bring about a greater sense of mastery in the subject taught.

    In reference to your thoughts on students not being able to use technology for learning: should we consider this a part of our jobs as educators?

    Your opinions are based in years of experience so I would consider them well research thoughts. To me the best thing we can do is start dialoging and try. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

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