Shunning Computers in the Classroom: Why Are Students Not the Authors of Their Own Digital Destiny?

The following post is an excellent submission to our general call for posts from undergraduate students. Nicole Gauvreau, a student at Bishops University in Modern Languages and International Studies, explains the frustration students feel when their access to digital tech is restricted.  We sincerely thank Nicole, and we hope you enjoy this submission.

On behalf of the digitalcommunitas team,

Dr. Sara Humphreys

I am a double major and have three concentrations, I also have really horrible handwriting: technology can be a lifesaver. Or it would be if most of my profs allowed the use of a computer (or any electronic device at all) in class. As it stands, I take my notes by hand and hope I can read them when I have time to type them up, because there’s no way I could study off my handwritten notes come exam time.

I hear and see from my friends at other universities that laptop use is allowed, even encouraged, in class. I, however, have had two professors who allow the use of laptops, and only one who encouraged it. That’s just computers: tablets and smartphones are a whole different matter. If the professor talks faster than you can write and were hoping to record the lecture on your smartphone, think again; you’ll have to hide any recording device in your desk really well. In fact, it might be best to buddy-up with someone who can write quickly.

Hoping to use eTextbooks, which are available on a number of mobile platforms, and read them on a tablet or eReader? Well that’s too bad, you’ll need the 150$ paper copy to use in class.Taking courses not in your native language means you need a paper dictionary, because only a few profs allow the use of online dictionaries or dictionary smartphone apps (we have discussed the benefits of online translation here – ed.)

Most of my professors at least use Moodle to make PowerPoints and class document available, others at my university even use the message board function on Moodle. However, some do not use Moodle, they provide hard copies of some documents and rely on you to write down everything else. I have not, however, had any professors who make use of anything more than a PowerPoint as a lecture aid in terms of technology in the classroom, and many professors simply lecture from hard-copy lecture notes. While students might use Google Docs to collaborate on projects outside of class time, everything must be converted into a Word document, PowerPoint, or hard-copy when it’s time to present or turn in the assignment.

Technology in general, let alone the use of social media platforms, is nearly non-existent in the three departments in which I take classes. Where technology is allowed, it’s under tight restrictions, such as the professor reserving, and sometimes employing, the right to see what you’re using your device for and being restricted to sitting in the first two rows of the class. Am I an adult or a child?

It’s 2014, but you might think it’s the 1990s or earlier for all that technology is deemed useful in the classroom.

2 Responses to “Shunning Computers in the Classroom: Why Are Students Not the Authors of Their Own Digital Destiny?”

  1. Talk about a backhanded compliment. No grammatical errors were added; those are all your own. You wrote a good polemic though. Thanks for contributing.


  1. Technology and Academia | News à la Nicole - October 26, 2014

    […] Some months ago I submitted a short essay to Digital Communitas, a web project funded by Trent University in Peterborough, Ont. that investigates “interactions between digital publics and academic publics”, after seeing call for submissions from undergraduate students. The topic was technology in the classroom, which is something rather close to my heart, largely because of the heavy restrictions many of my professors place on use of computers, tablets, and smartphones in the classroom. As of 7:24 p.m. on Oct. 15, 2014, my essay was live on the website. While a few things were changed in the editing process (including the addition of a few grammatical errors), I still hope you’ll read the post, which can be found here. […]

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