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Technology: What students know vs. what we want them to know

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One of the common technology disconnects we see is faculty expectations compared to student abilities. One of the possible reasons for this is the types of technologies student most commonly use compared with the types of technologies we want them to use.

Student Tech Use

First off, some students have significantly more computer experience than others. Some will have had home computers before they started to talk and others will have had limited access in schools. This gives a spectrum from no experience to constant experience…

 

Range from No Technology Use to Constant Use

Range from No Technology Use to Constant Use

In addition, however, we need to think about what students are doing when they use technology. The types of technologies students are frequently using are social networking, gaming, and ‘productivity’ tools (such as Word and email). And each student will have a different level of experience with each. So while one student may have focused on productivity and gaming, another might have focused on social networking.

 

Differering student expertise

Differering student expertise

So, graphing a class of students, you might end up with something like this:

Students will have various areas of expertise as well as different levels of use

Instructor Expectations

 The types of technologies we want them use could be grouped into productivity tools (perhaps expanded to include presentation and spreadsheet tools), subject-specific technologies (such as electronic medication administration), and instructional technologies (such as research databases, DoubleTake and Blackboard).

Students’ experiences in subject-area and instructional technologies are often pretty limited. So a typical student might look like this…

Student experience with subject and instructional technologies

Student experience with subject and instructional technologies

and a class might look more like this…

Class experience with subject and instructional technologies

Class experience with subject and instructional technologies

So what?

As instructors increase the amounts and types of technologies used for teaching, the students may need additional support. Programs we think of as intuitive may only be so because of our experience and background. For example, I don’t care what my kids say, I struggle with Facebook constantly. They don’t.

It might help us think through student technology learning needs if we think through their probable experiences and compare these with the technologies we are asking them to use.

This, of course, puts another burden on the instructor – as the main person associated with the technology, the instructor is probably students’ first contact.

If you are planning on using instructional technologies in class or in assignments, you might want to check your student’s readiness first. Attached is a simple and quick survey that might help you with this.

By thinking through what types of support students may need, when they might need it, and who is the most appropriate contact for the students, you can help them get support more quickly.

  • Many technologies have quick-start guides that you can provide students before they need them.
  • We also have student trainers who can provide basic instructions on many technologies your students might need to complete your assignments (http://www.itap.purdue.edu/learning/trainingnew/st/ or email itaptrainers@purdue.edu).
  • And if you are not sure who the contact should be, you can always start with the ITC Help Desk (x44000).

If you are interested in learning more specifically about instructional technologies, our team in IDC is ready to help. You can contact us by emailing itap@purdue.edu.

Pat Reid, Ed.D., Manager, Teaching and Learning Initiatives


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