Author argues for technology

Jim Lang, author of two books and Associate Professor of English at Assumption College, lectured on whether the classrooms of today should embrace ever-advancing modern technology.

The Feb. 4 lecture was part of the College’s Faculty Senate Forum.

“Maybe we should bring (modern technology) in and use it to teach. Or, should we head in the opposite direction and get away from it because the classroom is the one place to get away from it?” Lang asked.

While referring to teachers as “Digital Immigrants” and students as “Digital Natives,” Lang explained that many of today’s teachers are reluctant to welcome more advanced technology in their classrooms because they did not grow up with it.

According to Lang, the terms “Digital Immigrants” and “Digital Natives” were coined by Marc Prensky, a self-designated “futurist” who believes that in order to teach today’s students, teachers must change and adapt to the current world.

Lang said that he does not necessarily agree with all of Prensky’s beliefs, but he acknowledges there is indeed a technology gap between teachers and students.

While Lang agreed books and person-to-person discussions should never be ruled out, he also said he feels technology should be embraced, as it is already such a big part of the contemporary student’s life.

“Technology makes more sense,” Lang said in conclusion after evaluating both sides of the argument. “I don’t want to be a curmudgeon and say, ‘No technology in my classroom.'”

Lang also brought up the idea of having online discussion boards for students to access both in and outside of the classroom. While some faculty members of the College then questioned whether or not such virtual discussion boards would actually be utilized by the students, one professor said they were currently experimenting with Facebook, having students discuss classroom topics on there.

Another said that he had made use of software like Skype, an online phone and video chat service, bringing outside people into the classroom.

Lang concluded that a balance should be maintained between traditional teaching techniques and more advanced, technological ones.

The idea for the lecture came from a series of incidents that occurred in Lang’s own classroom, Lang said. Each of the incidents involved top students using their cell phones for texting during class.

Lang said that while he began to wonder what exactly was the great appeal of texting during class, he also began to think about the technological differences between teachers and students.

Lang is a graduate of Notre Dame University. His books include “Life on the Tenure Track: Lessons from the First Year” and “Learning Sickness: A Year with Crohn’s Disease.” He currently writes a monthly column on teaching for The Chronicle of Higher Education, titled “On Course.”

More information can be found on his Web site, jamesmlang.com.