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Technology improves learning process

Story by Katie Ericson

New technology brings about new questions? Professors share their opinion on technology in the classroom.

With wireless Internet available all across campus and the new iPhone about to come out, technology is a large part of our lives. However, the balance between school and technology can be a tricky one. Some people believe it simply does not belong in classrooms —— that it disrupts the educational atmosphere.

Politics and international relations professor Debra DeLaet disagrees. She allows her students to use laptops to take notes in class, though she acknowledges the worries of others.

“I know that many faculty worry that students are using their computers to read and respond to emails or to check Facebook. I am willing to take that risk,” DeLaet said.

The point DeLaet brings up is that students can use their laptops and even smart phones to look up information that is relevant to the class discussion.

While it is important for students to study and read their assignments before class, conversations can take unexpected turns and call for knowledge that was not in the material. Then, technology can help by bringing specific examples and information to light.

Professor Arthur Sanders has an even more accepting policy. A professor of politics, Sanders explained that he allows all technology in his classroom, including live tweets that are displayed on the classroom screen. He explained that this form of social media allows students to voice questions that may not have been addressed yet to the entire group.

While this rule does then allow students to use the social site, Sanders has a simple policy that addresses the issue, “You are adults. Do not disturb others.”

Many classes have formed groups and forums on social media sites. There are Facebook pages for the Drake University English Department, honors society and human rights forum. Students can post about international issues, job opportunities and related events in Des Moines. It also allows for students to connect to alumni and teachers outside of the classroom. They can ask questions about their field or advice about topics such as graduate school applications.

While social media and smart phones are controversial classroom items, email has long been accepted as a part of academic communication. However, with students writing emails from their phones and tablets, there is a question as to how formal these emails should be.

Allan Vestal, dean of the Drake University Law School, explained that he does not mind receiving informal emails, but that they should be sensible and purposeful messages.

“Many emails would benefit from one last look before being sent,” Vestal said.

Especially with autocorrect enabled on smart phones, it is important to make sure that words are not misspelled in emails. Both professors DeLaet and Sanders agreed with Vestal, stating that formality is not an issue with emails. Instead they highlighted respect as the more important feature. Professor Sanders added that this respectful tone should also be extended to any other messages, such as those sent via Twitter.

There are still some claim technology should not be included in classrooms, but more and more professors are accepting the devices into their classrooms.

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