Technology adoption on campus

The Chronicle just released their “Academic Almanac” for 2011.  This is always an interesting read as it aggregates a LOT of different data from various data sources and attempts to package it in a short, categorized format.  Due to my background in instructional technology, I tend to gravitate towards the technology section first to look for any interesting trends.  Obviously, mobility and mobile devices are playing an increasingly large role at many universities.  Here at Penn State, we just rolled out a mobile-friendly version of our primary website.  But with the rapid adoption of technology, we sometimes forget about good pedagogy. 

The Chronicle’s Technology entry in this year’s Almanac addresses some of these shortcomings, discussing several failed implementations of iPads and other mobile technology platforms at large, R1 institutions.  The author points out:

“The trick, colleges are learning, is to find the sweet spot where the technology and the type of instruction meet.”

When it comes to the iPad, one major affordance of the device is the multi-touch interface.  This lends itself to specific things from a pedagogy perspective.  Examining 3D models, for instance.  Interactive simulations and games.  Possibly examining high-resolution artwork for an art history course.  Some of these things work, and work well, on a device that involves navigating and interacting with fingers.  On the other hand, using these devices for text-heavy practices, such as note-taking or grading papers, might not be appropriate.  I do know people that use the iPad for text-heavy activities, but typically they use a stylus or external keyboard. 

As we approach the new semester, and Penn State explores technologies such as a new clicker system and a lecture capture pilot program, we need to think critically about pedagogy and how it transfers to some of these devices and systems that give us new affordances in the classroom.  Feel free to contact the institute ( if you want to talk more about the possible ideas for leveraging technology in your class, or various technologies available to all Penn State instructors.  We’re working closely with Education Technology Services to better understand all the technology ecosystems at the University, and we can help you align technology and pedagogy.

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