|Technology in College:|
Are Our Students Ready?
is all around us. There is practically no part of our lives that
is not impacted in some way by a technological development.
Literacy, from a technological point of view, is something that is
critical today because technology is everywhere. And technology
is constantly being refined, improved, and changed. New technology
is constantly coming in to our lives, and old technology is being phased
One of the biggest developments of technology in the last century has been the computer. Computers have gone from taking up several rooms and costing millions dollars to the sleek, compact machines which can fit in a person's hand. Once only capable of performing very limited tasks, computers can carry out millions of operations at the same time.
And technology development has hardly slowed down. A piece of hardware or software bought one month will be considered old within six months and obsolete within a year; technology is changing almost as fast as we can keep up with it.
Technology use on the college campus has never been higher than it is now. In a survey conducted in 2001 of 1,176 colleges and universities, it was found that use of email has more than tripled, the number of faculty with a Web page has quadrupled, and the number of courses that use Internet-based resources has grown five times compared to only five years before. Students need to be confident with using technology because it will play an increasing role in the college classroom.
Students as young as first grade are being taught the simplest mechanical functions on the computer such as typing using the home keys and are using educational programs designed to specifically target a skill such as mathematics. Here is a list of just a few from an online shopping site.
But is all this instruction doing any good? Is the technological instruction we are giving our students preparing them for success in the college classroom?
though I have a fairly strong background with using the computer, I am
not expecting my peers to have. Given my subjects and my totally
different backgrounds (see My Subjects), I really do not expect to find
that people are comfortable with the use of the computer when it comes
I strongly feel like students use computers significantly more often in college than they did in high school, just because of the more "formal" educational environment when both papers and thought processes will be of a higher order and more scholarly.
I guess I am saying that I am expecting to hear from my older classmates that they had a hard time adjusting to the expected increase in technology use. I make this statement because more students from my generation have grown up with computers being around, either in our homes or our classrooms, for our entire lives.
chose my peers in class as my subjects because we are a very diverse
group. We have some graduates who are currently teachers, people
from large and small cities, recent graduates, and not so recent
graduates. I thought this good group of people would give me a
wide variety of answers to study. Through a questionnaire,
I went poking and prodding into a very small section of the technology
history of my peers.
|An Aside: The Questionnaire
to the actual composition of the questionnaire, I can honestly say that
any future that I might have had in the polling industry is now
completely, 100% dead. There is a whole art to writing questions
that answer a specific question, and I am nothing but a novice at
this. As a result, I had to do a bit of research on how to write
an effective questionnaire.
Composing this document took several hours of frustration, self-loathing (for picking this particular topic, no matter how interested in it I was), and many timeouts to keep me from pulling an Office Space and beating the living Hell out of my PC.
As I quickly found out, the diversity of my class worked against me just as much as I thought it would work for me. With age being the hardest thing to account for, I had a truly difficult time trying to keep generalizations out of my questions. Well, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth on my part, I finally thought I had a set of questions that would allow me to look at the technological backgrounds of my classmates to see if they believed they were prepared.
Truly, the final product was the best document I could produce, but it could have been revised. I wish I would have found this site sooner.
be honest, I was a little surprised by some of the answers I
received. I was expecting a disparity in the use of the
technology of composition when it came to its use in high school versus
college. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my
classmates have had fairly good experiences with technology throughout
their education. Most students said that they were fairly
literate with using computers. While students who have recently
graduated from high school reported a higher rate of technology use, the older
students were far from illiterate. Everyone reported that they
used technology more in college than in high schools, which was the
response I was expecting.
|What Does This All Mean?
are doing a better job of teaching and exposing their students when it
comes to composing on a computer than I had given them credit
for. What I saw in myself as an exception (due to a history of
attending magnet schools which stressed the use of technology and a
father who worked for a computer company) has been shown to be closer
to the standard.
New graduates have a hard enough time making that huge leap from high school into the cold cruel arms of higher education. Our school systems have a responsibility to ensure their pupils are prepared for either higher education or the work force. Based on what I could find, it looks as if the schools are doing a decent job with making sure their students are prepared for college from a technological literacy point of view.
Of course, there is always another way to look at things. Given my weak background with designing and evaluating surveys, I have since realized the original survey only really looks at what I am going to call "lower order" computer skills. My survey revealed that students are fine when it comes to using a computer in a strictly typewriter capacity, in which nothing like hanging indents are required. Students can make words appear on a page, but can they manipulate them? This is a question I failed to ask myself when writing my survey. I didn't address higher level skills such as how to use the Internet for conducting research for a class instead of just using it to look up sports scores.
For example, students need to be able to evaluate information they find on the Web. There is no filter out there for students that will keep only good, honest, and unbiased information from popping up when a search is conducted. Here's a Web site about research conducted about student information-finding tactics. It shows that some students have not even considered the fact that not all information on the Internet is reliable and that most students had no idea if the information they used was useful or not.
This is where our educational systems need to improve. Students need to know the intricacies of how to produce professional, informative, and correct documents.
It sounds as if the schools are doing a good job of giving students minimal competence when it comes to computers, but when has minimal ever been enough?