Author Bio: Adrian Caballero
Welcome to the future.
It’s great to see so many parents of K-12 students so excited about technology in the classroom. Now that more and more millennials are becoming parents, it’s not surprising to see the tech-savvyness levels quickly rise in the student support system, outside of the traditional learning environment.
A millennial myself, I’m often the one showing my parents how to use the various gadgets and gizmos they just can’t seem to grasp. And this has always been the case. Even though both of my parents are educators, I was still always two steps ahead of them when it came to technology.
It was this invisible leg-up that all millennial children seemed to have been born with. To most of us, computers were commonplace – as much as any other household appliance. I don’t have to think back very hard to remember the crackles and screeches of my dial-up modem mustering all of its might to connect to the Internet.
It seemed that every month or so, AOL would release a new version of their software. It came on a CD-ROM. Remember that? They would mail them to our parents…but I was the one who would end up installing it. We’re just a different generation. Countless of dopamine-packed hours were wasted on MySpace. Those were our Saturday morning cartoons. Also, I’m almost certain generation y-ers are singlehandedly responsible for turning Google into a verb.
With that being said, the gap is closing.
Now, parents want to see technology playing a key role in their child’s learning. Not enough technology in the classroom is a matter of concern, and this demand is being met. Every school year it seems that educators are excited about a hot new app for teachers, and they should be. After all, it makes their job easier, and the quality of education that their students are receiving is immediately improved with the adoption of the new technology.
But is this trend following the student into the lecture hall, after graduation?
More and more K-12 teachers (many of which are millennials themselves) have adopted one or more forms of tech-learning as part of their curriculum. I think we can all agree that this is awesome. However, this all seems to stop somewhere between a student’s first auditorium-style lecture and their first frat party.
This discontent with the laggard teaching methods of universities came from being immersed in it. After graduating with my bachelor’s degree in 2014 I sincerely became concerned that academia has done little to harness the use of technology in and out of the class.
Now, I’m not talking about a clunky LMS (Learning Management Systems) like Blackboard, which anyone who has taken or taught a college course in the past decade has learned to hate, but I mean true harnessing of the various available learning technologies. Every kid in the Los Angeles Unified School District uses a tablet during day-to-day instruction (we all knew that wouldn’t end well…) yet most higher learning institutions are still resorting to the old pencil and paper methods of teaching.
The cause of this reluctance to adapt to more modern forms of education is probably pretty obvious. There’s a certain stigma surrounding higher education. You know what I’m talking about… Academia is very much caught up in it’s own learning tradition to look up from its dusty leather-bound book. This is why I commend the professors who are breaking this pattern of strictly lecture-and-note style teaching. They’re out there – I was under the instruction of many of them, and chances are, if you’re reading this, you may in fact be one of those professors. Thank you. But they’re in the minority.
In economics, free markets are shaped by the consumer. This consumer buys the products most appealing or beneficial to them, and they essentially cast a vote that let’s suppliers know what to produce, and what not to produce – basic demand theory.
In our case, the consumer is the parent/student, while the suppliers are the various schools, learning facilities, and districts parents and students choose from. You see this shopping around occur a lot with parents entering their children into pre-k, kindergarten, and elementary programs. This has forced early-childhood places of learning to provide leading edge teaching methods as part of their curriculum, because the market demands it. Hence, (almost) every kid in LA pounding away at their shiny new iPad.
Most college professors have a lot of intellectual control over how their class will be taught; don’t get me wrong, this is great. However, there’s a slight downfall in this system. The manor in which we ‘vote’ for the way we want college courses to be taught, skews the results. Yes, college students can choose which professors to take, but this only means that the more popular professors are the ones whose classes fill up first. And this only tells professors one thing: Students prefer professors with easy tests, no homework over spring break, and an optional final.
Students and parents should stress the importance of technology in the classroom. There’s no doubt that apps for professors should play an integral role in the education obtained at any post-secondary institution. It’s up to student’s to ask for these technologies to be used when given the chance, such as, in an evaluation done toward the end of the semester. It’s also up to the educators to begin supplementing lecture with one of the various edtech tools which cater to undergraduate learning.