I went to Richard Miller and Paul Hammond’s presentation “This Is How We Write” and the main focus was how technology is changing our classroom interactions. Whereas in the past there were only books to gather research from, today we are quickly transitioning into a more tech-savvy environment. Although some may be hesitant towards this change, Richard and Paul made it a point that this was not so much a choice as an almost inevitable transition. The central topic was how classrooms are moving away from books and heading towards mobile devices such as iPad’s. Whereas students used to carry heavy loads of textbooks everywhere they went, today they can hold entire libraries in the palm of their hand. Not only do they have the entire library, but it is presented in an organized fashion as well. Whether alphabetized and categorized by subject students are able to browser through books in seconds and find other books related to that subject.
Although the benefits may seem astronomical, there are still those who are hesitant towards making such dramatic changes. One problem that arises is the ability to use the technology. Students today can figure out how to manipulate a device in very short periods of time, but older folks take much longer to understand how our current technology works. This creates a bridge between professor and student that can slow down the learning process. Obviously as more young professors and teachers begin to be put into the school system the quicker the transition will be. In addition, there is also the problem of attention. With such a powerful device such as an iPad it becomes extremely easy to lose focus when trying to do an assignment. I can attest to this, where even when I am sitting down to write a paper I find myself checking facebook every half hour or so. It becomes so much harder to keep focused on an assignment when there are other more intriguing things I would rather do that can be accessed with the click of a button. To add, with this ability to find so much information so quickly it is hard to truly take in the knowledge at hand because it is so overwhelming. Most of the time you will find that students will just breeze by their work or skim through an article rather than spend the time trying to analyze it. The dependence on technology can also be bad when things begin to malfunction. What happens when a student cannot do an assignment because their mobile device has caught a virus or is damaged? I am not saying the transition from book based classrooms to technology based ones is a bad thing, but that it has its obvious flaws.
On the brighter side this transition to tech-based classrooms provides many benefits. For one, students are able to share ideas and documents much more easily, and can help each other much quicker. Most times students will not interact outside of the classroom, now they can share stuff via the Internet. This helps because now there is much more learning that can take place outside of classroom time, although they may not be physical interactions the interaction is still there. Students are working together and helping each other out. There is also the fact that students can now access all the resources they need and others around the world right in their lap. Although there seems to be many benefits that arise in the writing and English department, what was not mentioned, and what I think could be the most interesting aspect, is how these mobile devices can shape the learning environment in other subjects. A prime example is the sciences. With this kind of technology students can interact in a completely new way with how they learn. Rather than looking at pictures from a book of what the human body looks like and does, students will be able to get 3D models that they can interact with. They can peel back the layers of the skin, click on a muscle, and get a detail description on its functions. Math textbooks can be made significantly simpler by showing students step by step how to solve problems and equations. Architectural courses can make 3D blueprints. The benefits of technology in the classrooms, I believe, will be more significant in other course other than writing and this is where the transition from book based classrooms to technology based ones will have the greatest impact.