Dr. Karen Shumway, professor of management and associate dean of the College of Business, develops creative ways for students to use their personal technology in her classroom. Photo by Danny Meyer.
Their Own Devices
By Laurel Scott
With virtually every student bringing at least a cell phone, and often multiple digital devices, with them to class, Angelo State faculty members face the challenge of how to make that an advantage rather than a distraction.
Banning the devices from class like teachers used to do with chewing gum and calculators just is not an option.
“I’m a professional and I use a smart phone all the time,” said Dr. Paul Swets, College of Arts and Sciences dean. “It’s not to anyone’s advantage to tell our students not to use their devices, but it’s our responsibility to teach them how to use them appropriately.”
“ASU has always been proactive about technology,” he continued. “I think one of the ways you can see that is the really widespread Wi-Fi capability that we had before a lot of other campuses.”
It is also fruitless to buck a trend that is starting in high school. A practice known as BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, is sweeping public high schools across the nation, including San Angelo’s Central High School. Teenagers are being encouraged to bring their smart phones and other tech devices to their classes as a way to stretch public education dollars while incorporating new learning strategies.
As a result, those students are already set in their ways when they arrive on college campuses.
“If students are already being trained to use their devices in school, it is hard to change that once they become freshmen with us,” said Dr. Karen Shumway, College of Business associate dean. “I create classroom activities in which they can use their devices to do research as they complete the activity. This makes the time productive rather than just texting or using social media.”
With a 16-year-old daughter at home, Shumway has a constant reminder of what today’s students are like. One aspect she has discovered is that their familiarity with technology has helped make them more independent.
“In the fall semester of 2012, I taught freshmen here at ASU for the first time,” she said. “I had taught freshmen before at a previous institution, but not at ASU. It was a really interesting experience. The freshmen that I taught years ago, you had to spoon-feed them everything. These ASU freshmen, if you point them in the right direction, then I think because of technology and the internet, they’re much more likely to say, ‘OK, I can do this on my own now that you’ve got me looking in the right direction.’ It’s just different.”
“You have to be constantly educating yourself about their points of view in life,” Shumway added. “It’s not that they are right or wrong, it’s just that it’s so different. If you’re not constantly understanding that, you’re going to lose touch with them.”
Allowing and even utilizing students’ personal digital devices in the classroom is just another way ASU faculty continue to connect with students and roll with the changes.
“New technology should be something we use efficiently and to enhance the learning outcomes, rather than as a gimmick or a side show,” Swets said. “It should make the education experience easier and better for the students.”
“Our faculty are focused on teaching students, and we have always had really great faculty,” he continued. “So when new pedagogy, new technology or new textbooks come out, our faculty are eager to evaluate and adopt the ones that work for our students.”