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Survey Reveals Obvious Technology Gap

November 5, 2009

by Agnes Jasinski

Your opinions on how tech-savvy your professors are differ quite a bit from the instructors' opinions of their own technological effectiveness in the classroom, according to a survey released this week by CDW-G, an education technology provider.

According to the survey, which was collected via a nationally representative samples of students and faculty members at two- and four-year public and private colleges, students consider themselves much more technologically adept than their instructors, which may not be all that surprising:

  • About 75 percent of professors said that their school "understands how they use or want to use technology," while 32 percent of students said that their college was not preparing them well enough in the field of technology to give them useful skills for the job market.
  • About 67 percent of professors are comfortable with their own professional development in the field of technology, while only 38 percent of students said they felt their instructors were sufficiently tech-savvy.
  • About 74 percent of professors said that they incorporate technology into most classes, while only 38 percent of students agreed.

Students' perceptions of the technology gap isn't a new idea. Instructors are often viewed as being behind on the trends, even when they're actually quite technologically adept and can prove as much in the classroom. The problem comes in when the students actually are outpacing their instructors, especially in courses where technology could vastly improve a student's educational experience.

The survey, described in Inside Higher Education today, also polled IT staffers, and compared their answers with those of college professors'. In general, IT staffers expect more out of "smart" classrooms and instructors' capabilities. Both groups were asked what constitutes a smart classroom, and only about 40 percent of professors responded that an interactive whiteboard and distance learning capabilities to connect students from multiple locations constituted a smart classroom, compared to about 70 percent of IT staffers. Both groups were more on the same page when it came to general and wireless Internet access in the classroom.

The point is, technology isn't going anywhere, and it's only going to get more complex as time goes on. Professors, especially in fields where technology is going to be an important tool post-graduation, which is in most disciplines these days, should keep on top of new advances that will help make their students more effective learners.

Another article in Inside Higher Education today looks at Twitter and whether the social networking tool will become commonplace in the classroom. In that article, instructors and administrators seem wary of using Twitter in any educational way - although some are already using Twitter as the basis of their coursework - because it's seen as more of a fun diversion than a live resource or way to gather data. (Although you should obviously always fact-check anything you read on the site.) Professors may also worry that inviting Twitter into the classroom may distract students more than help them, while others argue that the site will become difficult to ignore by any institution, including colleges and universities.

What do you think about the technological capabilities at your college? Do you think your professors need a primer in new advances in technology? Let us know what you think, and whether you have ideas on how to bridge that technology gap, or whether you think it's as wide as this survey suggests.


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