The term “technology” is thrown around quite loosely. In terms of “technology” used in the classroom, we usually mean projectors, LCD screens, clickers and other electronic devices.
We should remember, though, that nearly any tool we use can be considered some form of technology. That includes books, pencils, blackboards and other traditional classroom items.
USC, among many other universities across the nation, has been implementing cutting edge technology such as projectors and smart boards. But USC should use technology only when it is appropriate and when it corresponds with the nature of the content being taught.
Technology in the classroom reflects an evolution not only of how teaching can be conducted, but also of the content students are expected to know.
By allowing students to access more information and at quicker speeds than ever before, the use of modern technology in the classroom pushes students to interact with technology in new ways.
A computer science major obviously must be competent with computers, just as a biology major must be proficient with many of the tools used in a lab.
USC gives students in technical fields, such as engineering and natural sciences, definite opportunities to exploit technology to succeed. The correspondence between the technologies employed and material presented is clear in the instances of technology-driven areas of study.
But whether the use of technology is appropriate in less technically driven fields of study, such as the humanities, is less clear.
Should USC push to make teachers of these classes employ the flashy multimedia presentations that business students might use or the clickers to count attendance and participation that many science classes use?
No, because USC professors should not be pushed in a direction that does not necessarily correspond to improvement. They should use technology only if it is appropriate. The implementation of technology is linked to the presentation of course content, and in altering one, one might negatively alter the other.
The presentation of information is as important as the information itself.
A delicate philosophical argument, for example, can perhaps be more easily explained with flashy diagrams and animations.
Similarly, in a language class, students given the option to type documents might more easily produce texts of greater length and more accurate spelling or character reproduction, but might fail to acquire a more solid grasp of the written language gained through hand-writing.
The implementation of new technology here can be seen as an impediment to a stronger foundation.
If a particular process is an integral part of learning, technology should not be employed in a way that would disturb this process.
Increasingly advanced technology allows professors to require more and more of students. USC should urge students to take advantage of technology to exploit opportunities that have been exclusive to the past few decades. The process of learning, though, should not be forgotten as a valuable learning experience in and of itself, and technology’s effects on this experience should be considered when its use is encouraged.
And though the implementation of different technologies might greatly alter how learning is done and what it is possible to learn, individual student intelligence and willpower still should be the primary determining factors in academic success at a university like USC.
Alan Wong is a sophomore majoring in East Asian languages and cultures. His column “Re-Defining USC” runs Tuesdays.