Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

Observations

January 19, 2010

I have recently begun taking an on campus, undergraduate course for the first time since 2005.  At the risk of appearing old, I am amazed at how things have changed.  When I completed my BA laptops were just beginning to make their way into the classroom among Arts students at Waterloo.  Most people were still making notes on paper.  While many of my classmates still do that, every second person has a laptop in front of them. Oddly, none of them seem to be using their computers to make notes or follow the lecture. Instead they play games, chat online, update Facebook, and send emails.  On top of this, everyone now has a cell phone and the people who sit around me send texts throughout class.  In fact, it seems that the students do everything but listen to the lecture.  I guess in the world of online course notes, there isn’t the same drive to be engaged with the material being presented.  I also think the nature of a statistics course is different than say philosophy in terms of the level of concentration and engagement required. Technology has replaced doodling and day dreaming as the distractions of choice.  Sleeping seems to still be popular.

I am still amazed at the changes, over such a short period of time.  University education seems to be moving towards an increasingly online model.  Will there be a day when university campuses are mostly obsolete?  At the University of Waterloo some departments are embracing distance courses, while others, like psychology are now offering fewer courses that way than when I was an undergrad.  If undergraduate students are only partially engaged in class then it make sense to focus on delivering content differently. Many courses are enriched by online exercises and material.  There are even fully online universities like Athabasca in Alberta. Despite this Ontario’s university campuses are expanding their infrastructure.  It seems that they are preparing for increasing student enrollment.

Talk Talk Talk

April 26, 2009

As part of my current job I spend a lot of time in high schools.  This has led to a lot of discussion and reflection about the differences between my school experience and what I observe now.  The students themselves act more or less the same.  There are still the same categories of people, from the wise cracking kids in the back of the room, to the shy, acheivers up front.  The swearing might be a bit more blatant and loud, but it isn’t that different than 10 years ago.  The one noticeable change is the proliferation of cell phones. When I was in high school the internet was a rlatively new idea, and I don’t think any of my friends had their own cell phone.  Today, a large portion of the students I see can’t go 3 minutes without texting someone.  The same is true of many adults now, but it’s startling to me that so many young people stay in almost constant contact with their peers.  How would they survive in a world where you could only reach your friends by phoning from your house, or knocking on their door.  I wonder how they will cope in the working world, where they won’t be allowed to repeatedly text or phone people.  In some ways it echoes back to my earlier post about The Machine Stops.

I also wonder what effect electronic conversation has on all of us as social beings.  I heard a report claiming that electronic relationships don’t nurture people the way real life encounters do.  Should we become a mostly digital society (a possibility that I’m not compeletely sold on)  I’m sure there are a great many negative consequences.  Since I prefer to deal in the present and past, I think the proliferation of cell phones among young people has mostly led to problems.  I don’t hate technology, but I do think we need to be careful what we do with it.  Take a look at this post from another blog because I think Neil Postman covers this territory in a superior manner.