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Technology can’t replace classroom environment

I am sure students may have asked themselves at some point, “Do I really need to come to class to do well in this course?” If the answer is no, then it usually is followed by the justification that you could probably get everything you need to know from the PowerPoint lectures online anyway.

As much as we would love to answer no to that question, I believe that technology cannot entirely replace the classroom environment.

Sure, putting PowerPoint lectures and making other resources available online can be helpful, but it does not replace the professor-student interaction that occurs in the classroom.

Other technological tools, like Skype, can bring the lecture and professor to any student anywhere. This type of instruction can certainly be convenient, but students would miss the value of being in the same environment with their professors and fellow classmates engaging in discussion.

Similarly, just scanning PowerPoint lectures could leave students with only part of the story.

When a professor uses a technological aid like PowerPoint, the idea is that it provides a framework for the lecture. Anyone can memorize a series of facts or statements on slides, but the real content of a course is deciphering what those facts mean by putting them in the appropriate context of the subject matter.

Professors are the ones that help decode the information. I know people learn in different ways, but I am more likely to remember information when somebody has put it into terms I understand.

According to a Feb. 27 article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, some believe that maybe the classroom is not the most valuable place for learning.

Randy Bass, executive director of Georgetown University’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship, said in the article that much of what students deem the most valuable part of their college learning experience does not even take place inside a classroom environment. He cited the results from the National Survey of Student Engagement, an annual study based at Indiana University at Bloomington, to prove this point.

The study found that students responded that non-classroom activities like internships, study-abroad programs, senior thesis and undergraduate research made up four of the eight “high impact” learning activities for survey participants.

I do not argue that these activities are not important learning experiences, but I do not think this evidence supports the idea that the traditional classroom no longer essential. The survey participants did not respond that all their “high impact” learning activities took place outside the classroom.

Another point brought up in the article is that students already have access to a wealth of information on the Internet. While this is true, it does not mean they understand it or can really know if the information they are receiving is accurate.

This question of accuracy is proven by the numerous college library Web pages devoted to explaining how to evaluate online information. Cornell, Johns Hopkins and Ohio State all have Web pages that guide students on evaluating online sources to find credible information. The recurring themes on these pages are reminders to check the Web site’s author, purpose and audience.

John Maeda, president of the Rhode Island School of Design, said in the article that courses are bound to evolve as new technologies emerge, but these advancements do not totally degrade the model of the university.

So while students have access to an immeasurable amount of information on the Internet and have a wide variety of technological tools available for use, it does not mean that all of these advancements can take the place of the traditional professor-student interaction in the classroom.

I am not saying that these tools have no place in the learning environment 8212; in fact, they can be beneficial aids in learning, with the emphasis on “aids.”

Heather Noel is a junior news-editorial journalism and history double major from Fort Worth.

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