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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Just push ‘download’

    Chelsea Jo Simpsoncolumnist
    Chelsea Jo Simpson
    columnist

    It seems that every semester my classes get a little more high-tech. Whether it’s some new gadget, software or a remote control to push, by the time I graduate students will walk into a class, plug themselves in and push “”download.”” By sophomore year most students are exposed to d2l, Power Point slides and the beloved clickers that go with them.

    The latest classroom technology is iTunesU. The UA has started using iTunesU podcasting, the idea being that professors can record their lectures and then make them available so that students can refer back later using their iPods. But there is no way that I am going to sit through an hour lecture and then plug in my headphones and listen to it again on the way to the gym. Besides, if I can simply listen to the exact same lecture on my iPod, why go to class, anyway?

    I have classes where the professor uploads the notes onto d2l. As a result, students choose to sleep in and just download the slides later. Sure, a professor can take attendance for a grade. That solves the attendance issue. But then they end up with a classroom of zombies. Why pay attention when you can download later? If students aren’t going to class anymore, then we have switched over to distance learning, and UA already offers a variety of correspondence courses.

    Regardless, the participation and interaction of students present in a classroom are far more valuable than simply listening to the same lecture later on. “”The worst thing you can do in class is let the students be passive,”” said Tom Fleming, an associate astronomer at the Steward Observatory.

    Fleming uses a variety of technology in his NATS classes, including responders, science “”toys”” and videos to keep students engaged and participating. Key word here: participating.

    Where is the participation in iTunesU? Power Point provides a visual aid for lectures. D2l, though frustrating at times, provides downloadable documents for the class and gives students a place to view grades. But podcasts of classes are an exact repeat of the lecture, information attainable by simply getting up and going to class.

    Yes, of course, it makes it easy for students to refer back when something isn’t clear. But if it turns into students listening to hours of lecture on their iPod the night before finals, then students aren’t learning, they’re memorizing.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have every amount of faith in students today. But technology in the classroom can be a distraction or a crutch to save time and energy. And honestly, if the options are getting out of bed at 8 a.m. to go to class or just downloading and listening to the lecture later in the afternoon, we’re probably looking at an extra hour of sleep. No one is denying the convenience of podcasting and the accessibility of iTunesU. There is already a variety of UA podcasts available to students.

    But before Apple

    Besides, if I can simply listen to the exact same lecture on my iPod, why go to class, anyway?

    wreaks havoc on my life, let me make myself clear. iTunesU could be a successful resource. For a professor to use it to upload relevant videos, clips or supplemental material for the class would make iTunesU a valuable resource for students. And it is great for correspondence courses. Either way, it comes with the responsibility of both the professor and the students.

    Professors are not responsible for students who simply refuse to learn. But if they are going to use technology like podcasting, they are responsible for using it to provide additional material, rather than just repeating the class. And students have the responsibility to use it as a resource, rather than the crutch it could undoubtedly become.

    Technology in the classroom is not a bad thing, and education should grow with technology. But there is a point at which the technology becomes a useless product that students simply won’t benefit from.

    For now only a few professors have started using podcasts, and although the trend may catch on quickly, none of my professors are using it. Besides, the idea of my professor’s voice popping up in my iPod shuffle while I’m at the gym is enough to get me to class, anyway.

    Chelsea Jo Simpson is a junior majoring in journalism and Spanish. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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