Professors embracing students’ love of tech


In classrooms across campus, technology is taking over.

Now more than ever, professors are pushing for laptops and smartphones to be used during class. Students reap the benefits of the integration of technology into their classes, as it’s generally easier to pull up an electronic version of the textbook on a tablet than lugging around the heavy hardcover version.

Many students, like Emily Alonso, a freshman majoring in chemistry,  find it more effective to take notes on their devices than by hand. She said some of her professors facilitate this by uploading their PowerPoint lectures to Canvas before class.

“In one class, I use my Surface Pro, and I can take notes using One Note,” Alonso said. “I use that instead of an actual notebook because I can write on the PowerPoint, which is very beneficial.”

For some time, iClickers have been widely used in large lecture classes to allow teachers to quickly check students’ understanding of the material. Some students say professors are now thinking outside of the box and incorporating new software that is more specialized to their curriculum.

“All the kids have to use Excel,” Shreya Sunny, a junior majoring in industrial engineering, said of one of her classes. “It’s not an option, there’s no writing notes in that class. You need your laptop for that.”

Alonso explained that her Academic Foundations class requires a smartphone app called Socrative. Her teacher then gets instant, detailed feedback from students.

“It’s interactive,” she said. “They post a question on the board, and then it’s anonymous. You can write whatever answer you want, or it could be multiple-choice. It gets everyone to be on task.”

Bayden Dora, a freshman majoring in computer science said his English teacher urges students to bring technology to class in order to review papers uploaded by their peers online. According to Zach Guerin, a senior majoring in health sciences, laptops are required in his upper level science courses. His physics professor uses a website called Mastering Physics instead of iClickers.

“He doesn’t do mandatory attendance, but he’ll do random pop quizzes,” Guerin explained. “They’re on Mastering Physics, so we all have to have our laptops or our smartphones in order to take the quiz that’s mandatory so we can receive credit.” 

Still, some professors have a strict ban on technology in class. A number of recent studies, including one from the Association for Psychological Science, have shown that students have a better long-term understanding of material when they take notes by hand rather than on a computer. 

In light of this, certain professors do not allow devices of any kind to ensure that students are writing their notes.

“In my manufacturing processes class, [my teacher] is completely against technology,” Sunny said. “You have to take notes by hand.”

Other professors see students not paying attention in class when allowed free use of their devices. Alonso said this was the reasoning behind the ban of laptops and smartphones in her human sexual behavior class.

“[My teacher] would rather none of [the students] have them even if some do use it the right way,” she said.

With the newfound importance of technology to students’ grades, it is important to consider the possibility of technology failure. Many courses require online submission of assignments through Canvas. What happens when the service goes offline, as it did last week, shortly before a deadline or while a student is taking an online quiz? 

As more professors make the high-tech shift, solutions to this problem need to be found quickly. Guerin said he already sees the negative effects technology failure can have on his classmates, like when the website used for pop quizzes in his physics class would not work on students’ smartphones.

“Half the class had to leave in the middle of lecture so they could go take a mandatory quiz,” he said. “It’s kind of horrible when you have to leave physics II in the middle of a lecture so you can go take this little quiz that if we don’t take it’s going to kill our grade.”