Technology in classrooms has become an increasing debate among educators. Instructors debate on the need to use technology to teach, the need to use technology to transmit information and even the need for students to bring their technology into the classroom, especially as the technology is used for every other reason than to learn the new material. One professor at Michigan State University became so enraged over the use of Facebook in his classroom that he created a video about the use of social networking site and posted it on Facebook for his students to (Gude, 2012). Other professors have simply forbidden the use of technology in their classrooms and later they will not answer any questions during office hours, via e-mail, or even when caught in the hallway if the student did use technology in the classroom (Foster, 2008) which has created a new battle between educators and students as students demand the use of their technology in classes. This technological war has resulted in newer initiatives by supporters of technology in education to allow the technology in class. The initiative is accurately entitled BYOT, Bring Your Own Technology (McManus, 2013).
The questions keep piling as educators align themselves on opposite sides of the technological debate. Should students be forbidden to bring technology in the classroom? Should students be encouraged to use technology in classrooms? If technology is used in classrooms, how will it be managed? The greatest debate, however, should be for educators to determine the best uses of technology in the classroom in weighing instructional methodologies to transmit information to these digital natives, starting with the age old lecture method of instruction.
The lecture no longer needs to be the main source of information as it is no longer the most efficient means of transmitting information (Smith & Cardaciotto, 2011). Education needs to transform from the conveying of facts and ideas to the engagement of students in the learning process. Students need the invitation to be involved in their learning process. Students need the opportunities to learn how to learn. Students need skills on how to manage the influx of information. Students need to know how to organize the new information and integrate it into the existing scaffolding. Students need to know how to manipulate new information through synthesizing, evaluating and analyzing the worth. Students need more student-centered approaches.
Education needs to adapt to this change and discover ways to improve its pedagogy in order to revolutionize the learning environment to prepare our students for managing information and learning in the digital age. Students need to know how to access the information though technology and weigh how reliable it is while schools and educational institutions provide the new technologies by incorporating them into the school programs. Our digital natives are mandating that education adopts technology and develops the needed independent, lifelong learning skills. “To prepare student to be lifelong learners requires a new approach to learning, one in which students are taught how to learn on their own” (ibid., p.6).
Yet, this also seems to be a contradiction to the research completed by the father of self-directed learning, Malcolm Knowles (1975), who states that students need to be nurtured in a warm, learning environment in order to develop the needed characteristics for the self-directed learning. These learners share certain attributes which glare brazenly at researchers (Long, 2010). Individuals who demonstrated self-directed learning tendencies were independent people who could visualize what they wanted to know (Song & Hill, 2007). They devoted themselves to study and to seriously hunting down minute details for comprehension. Once they acquired the knowledge they desired, they applied the information in their lives. They freely contributed to conversations, social situations, politics and other arenas without wavering on their newfound knowledge. Their propelling curiosity shaped their intrinsic motivation (Fischer & Scharff, 2010) instead of relying on outside influences to determine their learning. Additionally, they seeped a high degree of self-esteem and viewed themselves in a positive manner despite humbly acknowledging areas in which they lacked experience or facts (Fisher, King, & Tague, 2001).
It has been proven that technology can be effectively used in classrooms to transmit knowledge to students. However, it remains to be proven whether technology can also develop the needed characteristics of self-directed learners, characteristics needed by employers and also needed to sort the massive amounts of information in determining its quality (Molebash, 2013). Technology will not solve all of the ills within education, but it does not have to be a threat to the current educational practices. It can be used as a means to enhance educational experiences and hopefully develop the essential characteristics of independent learners.
Fischer, G. & Scharff, E. (2010). Learning technologies in support of self-directed learning. Retrieved October 7, 2011 from www-jime.open.ac.uk/98/4/fischer-98-4-paper.html
Fisher, M., King, J. & Tague, G. (2001). Development of a self-directed learning readiness scale for nursing education. Nurse Education Today, 21, 516 -533.
Foster, A. (2008). Law professors rule laptops out of order in class. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/Law-Professors-Rule-Laptops/29745
Gude, K. (2012). Yelling at students in class using Facebook doesn’t help but this video might. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karl-gude/yelling-at-students-using_b_1461770.html
Knowles, M. (1975). Self-directed learning: a guide for learners and teachers. Parsippany, New Jersey: Globe Fearon Press.
Long, H. (2010). Skills of self-directed learners. Retrieved from faculty-staff.ou.edu/L/Huey.B.Long-1/Articles/sd/selfdirected.html
McGarr, O. (2009). A review of podcasting in higher education: Its influence on the traditional lecture. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(3), 309-321
McManus, T. (2013). Initiative to let students use personal technology in class. Retrieved from http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/education/2013-08-13/initiative-let-students-use-personal-technology-class
Molebash, P. (2013) Technology and education: current and future trends. Retrieved from http://itari.in/categories/futuretrendsineducation/FutureofEdu-Tech.pdf
Smith, C. V. & Cardaciotto, L. (2011). Is active learning like broccoli? Student perceptions of active learning in large lecture classes. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 11(1), 53-61.
Song, L. & Hill, J. (2007). Conceptual model for understanding self-directed learning in online environments. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 6(1), 27-42.
By Tracy Harrington-Atkinson
Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, a master’s in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. She has published several titles, including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.