#3: CommTech and Education

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In elementary school, I remember using the colorful, round iMacs pictured above. By the time I graduated high school, we had a lab full of the latest iMac computers all of which were huge and sleek.

As Professor Esrock stated, communication technologies like computers and the Internet have been an integral part of millennials’ education. And in the future, the role of communication technologies in education will only increase.

Concerning my experience with commtechs in education, I think they have greatly facilitated learning. Things like the Internet and computers have spurred a wider array of classes being offered. Now there are classes focused solely on mastering use of communication technologies. In fact, my high school was a business and technology school that had a student help desk.

A con that I have seen, however, is the these same technologies can be used as a crutch and hinder education. For example, teachers can use online programs as a crutch without putting in as much effort as traditional education. Same goes for students. Students can fall into the trap of relying too heavily on the Internet for answers, in effect ‘taking the easy way out.’

Finding a good balance is a responsibility of the educator and the student. There is nothing wrong with using the internet, computers, or cellphones to help supplement lecture. The relationship needs to be complementary on both ends.

There are now hybrid courses which combine Internet lectures or activities with in-class teaching. A lot of language courses do this. I am currently enrolled in a hybrid course for Arabic. This course is four credits versus three due to the online component. Hybrid courses represent a balance that universities are testing out.

Another commtech that has been slowly emerging as a medium of choice is the e-book. Anyone with a computer screen can access e-books which have many benefits.

E-books tend to be less expensive and better for the environment. They are paperless so there is less waste as a result. In addition, if they are part of a cloud service you can access your books from any device with an Internet connection. Or log in to an account that has your ebooks saved. E-books are easier to search through and the devices for them are relatively inexpensive.

So why aren’t they in the hands of every college student?

Again, I will refer to the cost vs benefit equation. The cost for a e-reader can be much less than the cost of a physical textbook. It’s easier to search for specific passages or quotes and e-readers are better for the environment. According to this theory, e-books should be the hottest mode of reading.

However consumers just aren’t used to them.E-textbooks are a cheaper option, but students remain skeptical. Many people, myself included, find it better to have a physical  book. It’s easier to take notes and write sticky notes. They also strain your eyes less whenever you’re studying late at night. This is a case where individual preferences may outweigh price/benefit calculations. In the USA Today article, many students shared their varying opinions on e-books and their future. Some people have really caught on to e-books and use them regularly. Others see the benefits but want to keep traditional.

College courses are also straying from the traditional. Recently, Massive Open Online Course(s), or MOOC(s), have emerged as an innovative change to the traditional lecture. MOOCs are offered by edX, a MIT-Harvard University nonprofit, free of charge to anyone in the world with an Internet connection. These MOOCs have been raising questions as to just how much they will change higher education.

In “How Online Learning is Reinventing College,” the article identifies the candid question behind the camera which is where is this all leading?

I agree that MOOCs are a great way to reach people that universities might not otherwise engage. In the words of Horace Mann, education is the great equalizer. Now, students in under-served areas can access MIT courses for free. Hopefully, this will have a positive effect on literacy and math rates across the county. Of course this cannot count as the sole solution to education reform but it can be one of many.

Some people think universities will go bankrupt as a result of online learning. Others think it cheapens that value of a degree. Still others are cautiously adopting this technology in their own courses. Like any technology before it, it is hard to predict the success of MOOCs.

I think there is a valid point in the article that digital learning can’t provide the intimacy of the classroom or the social experience of the campus. I think again this is another example of individual preferences outweighing predictions. A student who is not engaged on campus and doesn’t get involved may as well take an online course. But a student who is active on campus may find it better to stick to traditional courses.

There are many questions still left unanswered regarding the future of MOOCs and e-books. Years later we might look back and see that they did fulfill predictions made today. But in our ever-changing now, it continues to be extremely difficult to tell just how successful these technologies will be.

 

 

 

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