Women in Academia: Incorporating Technology in the Classroom

Incorporating technology in the classroom seems like a great idea. There are all these cool new tools thanks to the internet and the advances in computers, tablets, smartphones, and it’d be a shame not to use them. The problem? Figuring out how to use these tools effectively is more difficult than anyone anticipated.

Some aspects of technology have been sneakily making their way into classrooms for years now: just think about the now nearly ubiquitous PowerPoint presentation and how it has changed large lecture classes. But even with these tools, there are many questions concerning how to use them. Should all lectures be available online ahead of time? Should slides include “fill in the blank” areas that get filled in during lecture time? How about using videos and audio clips to support the information introduced in the slides? Are PowerPoints the best use of class time (Jose A. Bowen, a dean at Southern Methodist University,  in an article by Jeffery R. Young at The Chronicles of Higher Ed doesn’t think so)? And what about interactive lab assignments?

Stepping outside of the physical classroom, the call of social media is strong. Educators talk about incorporating blogs, forum posts, Twitter, and even Facebook into the learning experience. Many of the suggestions don’t utilize the unique aspects of the new media so much as they just replace old media. Creating a classroom blog that functions exactly like the journal most students had to keep in MSWord or spiral-bound notebook form doesn’t really capitalize on all the things new media has to offer. Instead of looking at how assignments and ideas can be placed onto new media, it is useful to think about the unique attributes of new media.

So what can it offer? That’s sort of where I’m stuck in the process. I know what some of my worries are (that students will feel pressure to keep up with course-related social media at all times and feel even more suffocated by their classes, that students will stop going to lecture if they can get the material on line, that sort of thing), but I have less intuition about my aspirations. The internet offers quick response time to questions and comments, it allows for linking relatedto topics, it has a whole slew of useful (and sometimes even relevant) videos and audio clips, but is there any coherent learning tool that can be made from all of that?

So what do you all say? Have you experienced technology in the classroom? Was it helpful or hurtful? Interesting or dull? Do you use technology in your classroom? What do you do? Any ideas?

3 replies on “Women in Academia: Incorporating Technology in the Classroom”

It’s interesting, because two of  my 15 or so friends who have graduated in my field in the last year-ish got their first teaching appointments teaching primarily online courses. I am not saying that it is the wave of the future tm or anything, but I do feel like in order to be marketable, a fairly intimate understanding of blackboard as well as maybe some basic html skills is a positive thing to have.

The powerpoint issue is an ugly one. I think the generation of kids being taught in university now is used to being entertained on some type of digital screen,… and I think that powerpoint can fall into the trap of being entertainment. But it is really useful for showing students something (like a chart, a painting, musical notation etc)… I think as long as it’s kept sparse it’s ok.


At my school, we only have “combo” face-to-face instruction and online segments, as well as entirely online segments through independent study. I will admit, I have never taken a class without a PowerPoint, much less one where they weren’t posted beforehand. This is helpful because you can concentrate on the actual lecture, and not making sure you got everything down. Only one class I remember had fill-in PowerPoint lectures, as well as those little PRC remotes to answer questions for attendance (it was a class of 150-200). There’s no good answer though, especially because I haven’t read a course textbook in years because all the tests/instructions for assignments come from the notes or can be more clearly explained with a quick Google search.

I’ve taken a few online courses and for the most part it seems like it’s really hard to get everyone concerned equally on board with everything that’s going on.  Lots of times requirements to participate on classroom message boards and do all the reading/instruction on your own turf means that you’re investing way more than the typical 3 hours a week into general coursework, even factoring “homework” time in.  It also becomes problematic when older professors take on these courses (thinking they can still instruct while on vacation) and they’re the sort who aren’t great at keeping up with email.  I’m very wary of online courses for this reason.  You can never assume that you can actually get in touch with an instructor in a timely manner.

Leave a Reply