With the progress of technology in recent years, everyday life has begun to look like something out of a James Bond movie. Smartwatches, tablets and laptops are in every classroom, giving students a direct link to the outside world.
Sociologists have been observing the effect of technology on the five major institutions — family, religion, government, economy and education — and have found an increasing dynamic between younger generations, technology and education, said Robert Oxley, an adjunct sociology professor on campus at Dixie State University.
“The reason we have [technology in the classroom] is because this generation — the millennials — are accustomed with using media and media devices,” Oxley said. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have them use their expertise?”
Oxley said students are now able to experience historical events and meet people from different cultures without leaving the comfort of their home.
“[We] can give them the standard lesson and lecture in the classroom but also we can have them use social media on their own devices at home,” Oxley said.
Oxley explained how he uses technology to help students express their ideas within his classroom.
“Some of my students are a little apprehensive in a traditional classroom situation,” Oxley said. “If I open up discussion and put questions on our Canvas site, they might be apprehensive in person, but they feel completely comfortable so they write wonderful responses to questions and discussions online.”
Scott Allen, the Center for Teaching and Learning instructional designer, agrees that technology has become a key part of the traditional classroom.
“Social media has changed the world really,” Allen said. “Education, especially instructors maybe, are a little bit slower to adopt it but in order to stay relevant we’re going to have to embrace and support social media in the classroom and outside of the classroom.”
Courses around Dixie State University have already started a transition toward a more group-oriented focus that will allow for more social interaction, Allen said.
“The great things that are happening in the world are spread through Twitter and all kinds of social media,” Allen said. “There’s so much that we can learn through social media that we need to embrace it in the classroom.”
DSU’s goal is to have 15 percent of their classes online within the next three years, said Ryan Hobbs, director of distance and digital learning.
“I think it’s almost exclusively a benefit,” Hobbes said. “I think it creates better access [and] better opportunities. It creates flexibility and convenience in scheduling that is otherwise not available. For some students who are trying to balance work and family and other life experiences it’s the only way to do it.”
Hobbes said online classes aren’t the optimal choice for some students and faculty, and some courses aren’t meant to be taught online.
“I think that if it is used solely and only in certain places then it can be a detriment because I do think we tend to miss out on some of the benefits of face-to-face interaction that I think everyone needs to experience,” Hobbs said.
All three men agree that technology has become the cornerstone of education.
“I think it’s driving how we connect with one another, how we learn perhaps or might learn, how we’re connected and how we might connect with others,” Hobbs said.
Students are also able to see eye-to-eye with professors and administrators on campus in regards to how they want to see education advance, said Ashley Richins, a freshman nursing major from Castle Rock, Colorado.
“When I was in middle school the teachers would never let us use calculators on math tests,” Richins said. “They argued that we wouldn’t always have a calculator with us but now I do.”
Richins said that by integrating technology into traditional classrooms, professors are able to teach in ways multiple types of learners can understand.
“Learning about the human brain is easier for me when I can see what I’m learning about,” Richins said. “It’s not like we have a spare brain laying around to cut open and point to the amygdala or frontal lobe. But there are videos and animations for visual learners like me.”
As DSU evolves to accommodate the younger generations and the progress of technology, students will be able to see a physical change around campus, Oxley said.
“I like the way the whole campus is moving forward,” Oxley said. “I’m having fun watching the transition from college to university.”