By Jairus Burdick, a current student at UMass Amherst
Gone are the days when everything involving education has revolved around pen and paper or a chalkboard. We now use much more sophisticated methods of learning and enhancing this learning. For many students, a huge factor technology plays in their education is their note taking. Instead of writing down notes on paper, they take their laptops to class and type them. This allows many students to get information down quicker, as well as offering a much more efficient filing system. Notes from the first chapter of a textbook can be neatly tucked away into the appropriate file, while chapter five’s notes remain in another.
Another significant way technology has come into play is through communication. Instead of having to wait until class to speak to professors, students can now email them. This offers a direct line of communication from instructor to student, which allows for fewer issues. If you forget what an assignment is, you can now email professors directly to ask them for it. While not all professors will be quick to respond, most try to stay close to a source of email. For the professors that can’t reply quickly because they are running large classes, the TA’s are another option for contact.
Homework, syllabi, upcoming assignments and contact information are also aspects of education that have become much more efficient. Websites are now being created for the sole purpose of being class oriented. For my university, we used a system called “Spark” for years, but are now switching to a program called “Moodle.” This newer, more sophisticated system efficiently organizes all assignments and important dates so that students can quickly see what is coming up.
Life in the classroom is perhaps what has changed most. While my seminar classes remain virtually the same as they always have (I.E. discussion based, therefore using almost no technology) my large lecture classes are drastically different. Using programs such as Powerpoint, professors are able to project slides for the entire class to see, making many things easier. If they have the need to show a picture, they can project it. If they need to highlight a few key points, they can project them for the entire class. Most importantly, it allows them to have an outline for their lectures so that if something comes up, their train of thought is right in from of them. In addition to this, students can refer back to previous slides if professors post their lecture slides online, which many do. For students that aren’t able to make it to class, they can go online to look at lectures and get all the information that they missed. Attendance accounts for varying percentages of student’s grades in some classes, and electronic devices are making that easier to track. Instead of sending long sheets of paper around to be signed to prove attendance at lectures, systems such as the “iClicker” allow students to not only prove their attendance, but participate in questions. Professors can present a problem or question to students, and with their iClickers, students can input answers ranging from the alphabet to numbers.
Throughout all of these changes in educational process, we are becoming increasingly more efficient. Instead of wasting time with archaic systems, schools are now switching to programs and processes that enable everyone involved to be better off than if we were restricted to using older mediums. As society always does, we will continue to improve our educational processes for the better, and as for now, it seems we are doing a pretty good job.