• August 31, 2015

Professors’ Use of Technology in Teaching

The Faculty Survey of Student Engagement surveyed approximately 4,600 faculty members at 50 U.S. colleges and universities in the spring of 2009.


1. derekbruff - July 26, 2010 at 05:11 pm

I wonder how these researchers would rate a more curated collection of resources, like MERLOT's collection of "mitosis" related content.

2. derekbruff - July 26, 2010 at 05:12 pm

Oops, that comment was meant for another story...

3. derekbruff - July 27, 2010 at 10:49 am

I should probably add something useful here! As Peter Newbury mentioned, the top two tools here, course management systems and plagiarism detection software, are largely geared toward helping instructors administer their courses more efficiently, not about student learning. (Although, when used well, plagiarism detection tools can be very useful for teaching students about scholarly writing and communication.)

The other tools listed here are more directly focused on enhancing student learning. And while virtual worlds have, in my opinion, somewhat limited use in higher ed, all the other tools are potentially useful across the disciplines. It would be great to see the "use it at least some" percentages for these tools increase in next year's survey.

4. ambouche - July 28, 2010 at 07:41 pm

Is there in fact any hard evidence that excellence in teaching is tightly linked to rates of technology use, or that increasing technology acceptance will necessarily and automatically improve teaching and learning, as this article seems to imply?

5. joehardy - July 28, 2010 at 10:21 pm

For those of us at small liberal arts colleges, often with classes of 15 to 20 students, is there really a need for such technology as clickers? We're not teaching 90 people in a large lecture hall. Likewise for videoconferencing and "Internet phone chat." And how would Second Life enhance a small course in video production?
None of these tools are bad and most have considerable utility in _certain_ _types_ of courses. But many of us don't teach in such environments, so if we are included in such a survey, it doesn't mean we are Luddites, but that we use those tools that are appropriate.

6. bryanalexander - July 29, 2010 at 10:34 am

Joe, good point about clickers (although many small liberal arts colleges have adopted them).

Videoconferencing and Skype etc audio, on the other hand, have been used by these campuses for several purposes. Study abroad, for one. Language instruction (native speakers!) for another. Some disaster-driven uses have also happened, as when a California fire blocked one prof from her class (problem solved via Marratech videoconfence). On top of that, there's the outside of class use for general communication and social connection.

Second Life and video production: SL is a good machinima production tool.

All of these comments are about teaching and learning. There's another raft of uses for scholars at small liberal arts colleges.

7. jcdurso - July 29, 2010 at 10:41 am

@joehardy, I agree with you on clickers, but beg to differ on virtual worlds. Second Life® is a wonderful platform for videomaking in the small liberal arts college setting. The machinima coming out of Second Life® are incredible,with all the look of animation, the ability to produce incredible footage and the recent arrival of media on a prim givng you the chance to import video for use as your backdrop.

For example, here is "Ten Little Aliens" , Chantal Harvey's recent category-busting entry in the aniboom new Sesame Street animated character contest: http://www.aniboom.com/animation-video/435859/10-Little-Aliens/

Here is a very clever use of media on a prim, in JenzZa Misfit's "Smooth Criminal ~ Mixed Reality Dance Tribute to Michael ~ at Muse Isle in Second Life®",found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6CsGujPYg0

And here is Rysan Fall's tribute to Billie Holiday,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7Wo4RAmJcU, filmed in Bryan Mnemonic's Virtual Harlem, an incredible resource for any small liberal arts college professor, built by Bryan Carter at Central Misouri State University.

Finally, for an introduction for educators, here is Shamblesguru Voom's TEDXBangkok talk: http://vimeo.com/9430042

8. pennsylvaniaprof - July 30, 2010 at 07:25 am

I would like plagiarism to be spelled correctly in the graph.

Our institution will not allow the use of Turn It In for legal reasons. I wonder if that is the case elsewhere.

9. tenstring - July 30, 2010 at 08:15 am

So who/what is being held back by these unconscionable profs? The profits of software companies? I'm still not convinced that powerpoint improves test scores in my history class -- I use it because the students want it and I can see why. I just didn't see any test score improvement. Academe in general seems to be in a race to mediocrity.

10. hmccullo - July 30, 2010 at 08:41 am

I second pennsylvaniaprof: please correct the spelling of plagiarism in your graph.

11. pdoopdoo2 - July 30, 2010 at 10:04 am

To bastardize a bit of Shakespeare: Technology is neither good nor bad, but using it makes it so.

12. fcshofstra - July 30, 2010 at 02:04 pm

Why is there no category for "Know what it is, have evaluated it, and decided not to use it"?

On the other hand, thank you thank you thank you for not making PowerPoint a category. As the comments already show, the use of this horrible software for horrible teaching has sidetracked the whole discussion of using technology appropriately in the classroom, and held back a lot of real innovation. I long for the day when "classroom technology" and "PowerPoint" are synonymous to no one!

13. goodeyes - July 30, 2010 at 03:53 pm

To 3. derekbruff,

Course Management Systems do add to student learning and should be used by all faculty. This is obvious if you read the research.

14. russhunt - July 30, 2010 at 03:59 pm

I'm bemused at how innovation in teaching has become conflated with technology use. I've been using various forms of IT in my teaching since the early eighties, but what's innovative, or at least new, about it is quite independent of the technology. It's made some activities easier (e.g., socially embedded authentic writing, collaborative investigation, collaborative writing, peer editing), but I was using them before IT, and would be using them had IT never happened. I'm grateful that it did happen, but it's not the same thing as "innovation."

15. derekbruff - July 31, 2010 at 11:10 am

@goodeyes: I find that the functions of course managements systems most commonly used by faculty are (a) distributing course documents and (b) distributing grades to students. Those two functions don't have much to do with student learning, just course administration.

However, course management systems typically include dozens of tools that *are* focused on student learning, like group collaboration tools and discussion forums. These tools can be very effective, but I don't believe they're used as frequently as the course administration tools.

And as for the research on course management systems, it's not enough to say that "Research shows that using course management systems improves learning." That's like saying "Research shows that using chalkboards improves learning." I'm sure any useful research on course management systems (or chalkboards) focuses on *how* those tools are used, not the mere fact that they are used.

It's the same with research on teaching with clickers. You can't compare a class that uses clickers to a class that doesn't use clickers without specifying the ways in which clickers are used in the "experimental" class. Are they used for simple recall questions or more difficult critical thinking questions? Are students invited to discuss their answers with peers before voting? Does the instructor alter the flow of the class in response to the results of a clicker question? These teaching choices matter far more than the mere presence of a particular technology.

16. satris - July 31, 2010 at 02:34 pm

So from 90% to 98% of faculty have heard of these things, but do not use them in their classes -- maybe because (as in my own case) these things are not appropriate for what they are doing.

17. csgirl - August 02, 2010 at 08:50 am

I use a boatload of technology in my courses, all to teach the students the skills they will need after graduation, but I see none of it in these graphs. I want to see the stats on who uses issue tracking systems, project management tools, integrated development environments, graphics systems, and algorithm visualizationtools, in their courses. I bet biologists have a similar list of high tech tools they already use, and physicists too. Many of us are spending so much time on discipline-centric high tech toys that we can't cram any more technology into our classes.

18. unabashedmale - August 02, 2010 at 03:21 pm

Anybody remember when the PC/Internet revolution started in the 90s. Schools spent tens of billions on software & equipment that was supposed to improve the learning process?
So, now my dog is smarter than most high school honor students.

Based on the actual educators responses in your charts, I conclude that use of Internet based technology appears to be highly overrated. It is NOT that expert educators aren't recognizing useful tools. It is that serious educators will embrace those things that genuinely help students learn.

So, enough with these Internet gimmicks. You guys & gals hang in there with your face-to-face instructional methods. You are the ones helping the students the most.

BTW, I'm a computer technologist. So, sock-it-to-me for being politically incorrect.

19. punnett09 - August 13, 2010 at 04:42 pm

I agree with those that have suggested that how technology is used is far more important than simply its use. I would also suggest that many of us had excellent learning experiences as students when technology was minimal or non-existant in the classroom. We must also admit that there are faculty out there resistant to all change who do nothing but read from their yellowed notes or who copy directly from the book onto the board and rarely turn around the entire class. When discussions come up about bringing in some new innovation (yes, often directly correlated with technology) into the classroom, they are also the most adamantly opposed.

Powerpoint can be a course killer because the students tend to only write down what is on the slide. I provide a student version that gives students time to listen but expects them to fill in critical information.

I gives short quizzes at the beginning of every lecture on the prior lecture to encourage more consistent study habits. I have clear data showing the link between developing these patterns and exam performance (this should not be a surprise). I would do this with clickers but have been hesitant due the large number of financially limited students on my campus. However, my department is just now looking into whether or not and how to incorporate student-centered technology into the classroom.

Another category that seems missing (though it may fall in with "course management") is the use of publishers' interactive online tools that are becoming more and more available. I testdrove McGraw-Hill's Connect system in my intro biology course last spring. Even though its use was largely voluntary on behalf of the students (I'll be giving it some point value this semester), the feedback from students was very very positive. This fall, the dept adopted use of this system combined with the textbook for all instructors teaching this course.

My two cents...

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