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Power to Learn - Integrating Technology

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Integrating Technology
by James G. Lengel, Hunter College CUNY, 12/04/08

A recent survey of American college students and faculty finds that the overwhelming majority feel that technology is critical to their ability to study -- from 100% of the engineering majors, down to 73% of the liberal arts majors report they simply can't succeed without it. And yet fewer than one-third report that these technologies are sufficiently integrated into their academic work. A complete report of the study is available at the web site of CDW-G, a company that provides computers to schools.

The basic message of the report is the lack of academic applications of the new technologies in college courses. While the students enjoy, almost universally, access to laptops, mobile devices, powerful media-creation software, and high-speed network access, and have learned how to use these for personal and social purposes, they seldom find them applied to their studies. Here are some facts and figures from the survey.

New media

The survey looked at four new-media applications that are familiar to students, and considered to be useful in academic settings: wikis, podcasts, web conferencing, and video conferencing. Few students report using these in college for academic work:

  • 73% don’t use wikis in their courses;
  • 83% don’t listen to podcasts as part of their academic assignments;
  • 88% don’t use web conferencing educationally;
  • 91% don’t use videoconferencing in classes.

While the majority of students report using new technologies on their own to prepare for their courses, only 24% report actually using any technology at all in class.

Online chat

When asked what technologies might improve their education, students reported that they "want more than a lecture-hall atmosphere from their college experience –they want regular and immediate communication with faculty. Students rated online chat with professors the tech capability that would be most useful in their studies." Yet the survey found that few campuses offer this simple capability, called by many instant messaging or IM, and many actually block its use from their networks.

Faculty role

You might think the recalcitrant, old-fashioned faculty is to blame for this lack of technology in the classroom. Think again. The survey found that 91% of faculty say technology is essential to student and faculty success, and that they are encouraged to use it in their classes. But only 33% say technology is fully integrated into the academic program on their campus. What's preventing them from doing what they'd like?

  • Training: "The biggest challenge is not knowing how to use the technology."
  • Facilities: 43% of faculty whose classes are scheduled into technology-equipped classrooms report using it in every single class session, versus only 23% of faculty who are scheduled into non-tech classrooms.

When asked, "What's the biggest impediment to classroom technology on your campus?", the survey finds the following:

   Students  Faculty  IT Staff
 Professors don’t know how to use it   25 44 55
 Classrooms are not outfitted with technology   31  25  17
 Professors won’t use it  12   13  17
  Technology is outdated  14  16  10
  Technology isn’t useful to the courses of study on my campus  17   2 0


When students were asked, "What recommendation would you give to your teachers to better use technology in the classroom?," they responded: “
  • Use videos, instructional Web sites, slide shows, online experiments, etc., to better instruct and familiarize students with relevant information.
  • Use wikis.
  • I know my campus offers training courses for all faculty on how to use the new technology … I would highly recommend that all professors take these courses.
  • Get AIM.
  • Keep grades updated, send out mass e-mails to students, stop using VHS ... it’s called live streaming!
  • Teachers seem to grasp the concept of using technology, but sometimes don’t embrace using it”
  • Be creative. I enjoy podcasts as a learning tool.

When faculty were asked, "What would you like to be able to do with technology in the classroom that you currently cannot?," they responded:

  • I would like all of my classrooms to be a smart classroom, so that each of my sections receive the same level of education
  • Better integrate audio/video into my PowerPoints and podcasts
  • Have it work every time I plan on using it
  • More seamlessly show multimedia content and search for reliable information in class.
  • More interactive capabilities, allow students to input onto the screen from their desk, for example.


There are few surprises in this report. Rather, we see a confirmation of what we see each day on our campuses: fully-connected students, with all the hardware and software they need, looking for their professors to take advantage of it for teaching and learning. In this column we have provided many suggestions for moving forward in the areas covered by the recent survey. Take a look at the following for some concrete, hands-on ideas:

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