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Technology in the classroom remains divisive in higher education


Monday, January 27, 2014

There can be little doubt that many young people who are preparing for college are already enthusiastic users of modern technology. And while some education experts are convinced that widespread adoption of tablets and online course materials can revolutionize the higher education system, others remain skeptical of technology's true promise. According to an article by USA Today Collegiate Correspondent Hilary Burns, the use of technology on college campuses is dividing opinions among students and professors alike.

Achieving a balance
While not widespread, instructors of certain courses at colleges across the country forbid the use of tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices during class. One such course is Wake Forest University's "Contemporary Moral Problems," which prohibits the use of electronic devices due to their potentially distracting nature, claiming that even students who have the discipline to use such technology to aid their studies can be negatively affected by these devices.

"I just worry about it as a distraction, primarily to other students," Adam Kadlac, a lecturer of philosophy at Wake Forest University, told the news source. "It is one thing if a student wants to ignore what is going on in class and check e-mail, Facebook or ESPN.com. It is another thing to have a student next to you doing those things when you are trying to follow a lecture or class discussion."

A state of flux
Although the increased adoption of technology in higher education is apparent, the potential for the applications of modern devices in academic settings remains to be seen.

According to Wired magazine, innovation in several areas of the education sector, such as the growing popularity of digital textbooks, could not only save money but also challenge the existing paradigms about how students utilize course materials in their studies.

Ariel Diaz, founder of open-source digital textbook company Boundless, wrote that the rising costs of traditional textbooks and the ease with which students can access required reading materials on their e-Reader, tablet or smartphone are already persuading many students to choose digital solutions over physical texts. In addition, Diaz believes that digital books can provide students with tools and resources that allow them to personalize their learning.

While the academic benefits of technology remain a hotly debated point, the growing prevalence of digital devices in colleges and universities is likely to further shape the way that students learn and professors teach.

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