I recently attended a presentation by Richard E. Miller, Executive Director of the Plangere Writing Center and Paul Hammond, Director of Digital Initiatives for Rutgers Undergraduate Education titled This Is How We Write. The presentation asked the question “what is the future of higher education and how is it being transformed by technology?” or in other words, “how is the increasing presence of technology in the classroom changing the way that we educate?” Miller and Hammond address their own question by demonstrating the use of an interactive textbook viewed on an iPad. The textbook, if it could even be called a textbook, was unlike any other that I had seen before. It contained diagrams and paragraphs which expanded and contracted, shifted and changed emphasis based on the current point of focus as determined by the taps of the index finger of the person using it. It contained twice the visual appeal and ten times the accessibility through an electronic index. However, despite all of its earth-shattering bells and whistles, the best aspects that this new kind of textbook possessed was that it is lighter than its paper bound version despite being entirely paperless and can be any number of textbooks at the same time insuring that it will eventually pay for itself.
During the presentation, I was reassured that the role of technology in education would only increase with time but whether these changes were made for the better or for the worse would be determined by the way that we approach technology as a knowledge bestowing vehicle. Shane Carr argued in his bleak and despairing article “Is Google Making Us Stupid” that in our labors to build technological wonders, we have inadvertently gotten the ball rolling on the intellectual handicap of the human race. Well, cheer up Shane because it’s not that bad and help is probably on the way. The presentation made it clear to me that technology wasn’t making us stupid, at least not by itself; we simply were using it incorrectly. In his essay, Carr saw technology as a means of quick access to such a wide amount of information that it is rendered forgettable by its sheer volume. However, this is not how the learning process works. Technology isn’t making us stupid; we are just attempting to use it for something that it isn’t meant to do. For example, let’s say that a scientist steals the ideas of a more talented and competent scientist and then attempts to present those ideas as his own. But does respect of information come with the quick and easy access of it? No, it does not just as respect does not come with the student’s newly acquired knowledge granted to him or her by a few minutes of minimal effort. In summary, technology has its proper place in the pursuit of knowledge, yet it must continue to be treated with respect and studied with patience as it was before the access to expertise was only a couple clicks away.
The understanding of the role of technology in education can be applied to my tutoring sessions by instructing the students to recognize the pains that someone or many has gone to in order to assemble the knowledge that has been so effortlessly placed in front of them. Students should respect it, be patient in its study and not expect to understand it just by briefly glancing through it. What was true in a world of paper is still true in a world of computers. In conclusion, technology will always have an important role in the field of higher education but it is in our approach to the use of this technology and to the knowledge that technology presents that will determine its role in our constantly expanding area of expertise.