New technology challenges traditional teaching

18 Jun

I came across a blog article titled Changes in education hurt actual learning skills and am concerned with the narrow-mindedness displayed by the professor who wrote it. Concerns over new technology and its affect on society are nothing new and occur with each ground-breaking development.

The article begins by opening up the discussion about the impact of new technology on the Standards of Learning Tests:

“Colleges are now receiving the first crops of students who have been indoctrinated from kindergarten for SOL testing. The educational issues, however, delve deeper into our culture. Additional factors include parents, cellular telephones, grade inflation, and the social media to which students are addicted.”

The professor then continues the article without again mentioning SOL testing, only having used it as a loose introduction to a tirade that attacks today’s youth and their parents.

“Cellular phones make it too easy to call home to ever-willing parents for problem-solving. A generation ago, high school students typically waited until suppertime to report daily activities to their parents. College students called home once a week and paid by the minute — or wrote letters. By then, the inane issues were worked out and forgotten.”

This attitude is in direct opposition to today’s widespread adoption of instant communication. Technology allows us to post updates through the real-time social web and communicate with close friends through text and instant messaging. This is the world in which we live—almost everyone is connected ubiquitously to one another through mobile technology and a world of information is at your fingertips. The professor is also forgetting this generation of students has never known a life without computers.

bored students in lecture

“Attention spans are shorter. Few students are driven by a passion for learning; instead, most want the bottom line”

Firstly, attention spans are shorter with all generations, it’s not exclusive to youth. Secondly, it’s called the recession and it’s had a devastating impact on young people worldwide. Some students’ passion for learning may be replaced with a goal of being employed and earning money, but they’re seeing professionals in the workforce lose their jobs regardless of their passion for them.

Wanting the ‘bottom line’ is forced on students, beginning in high school as they strive for entry into their top universities. Look at college entrance scores, the difference between an 89.2 and an 89.9 can result in an offer to your first-choice program or a rejection letter and loss of hope. This is ‘bottom line’ and it is drilled into teenagers’ heads when studying toward and applying to universities.

The professor mentions “the immense challenges of educating this new generation”. Her article implies she’s not up to that challenge. Old-school educators cannot hide behind their dusty Encyclopedia Britannica collection and deeply rooted philosophies. New media will hold them accountable. Take a look at what students have to say about this professor on

Effective professors are adapting to their students’ need to learn in new ways. Sam Scalise, CIO of Sonoma State University, says, “The professor’s role is evolving from instructor to mentor … Homework, quizzes and projects will have to be designed in such a way as to require genuine thoughtfulness on the part of the student. That paradigm shift offers enormous potential for advancing educational quality.”

Educational quality is made possible with enlightened, well-informed educators, who stay up-to-date with the latest in teaching methods, technology and expectations of this new generation. It’s not about being ‘popular’ with students, it’s about connecting education with the real-world.

Other professions involve keeping up with industry trends to remain relevant and provide value to those you support—designers, developers, personal trainers, construction workers. Educators are responsible for providing quality tertiary teaching. This may challenge ideas of traditional teaching, however, universities will come to expect more from professors as they look to improve transition and retention rates.

Old school is out

Classes should not be taught in the way they were fifty years ago and universities are recognising this. Polley Ann McClure, CIO of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York says, “Teaching will become more outcome-based and student-centred … To be truly transformative instructional paradigms will have to shift.” Memorisation is a thing of the past. Students now want to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-world situations and won’t accept instructors who teach courses straight from text books.

The professor and author of Changes in education hurt actual learning skills should not hold students, their parents and technology entirely responsible for lack of attention in class and commitment to learning. Students should respect their professors, but it’s a failure on the professor’s part if they don’t attempt to earn that respect by recognising and accommodating the learning needs of today’s youth and the shift in societal norms.


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