Rock, Paper, Technology

By Cheyenne Guo, a Math student (who is trying to attain wisdom and knowledge)

It’s amazing how technology has influenced classroom teaching. What used to be chalk and blackboard and pens and paper has turned into screens at the front and all around the class. Students can now carry one sophisticated piece of metal that will allow them to access the whole world. As a result, lectures are being given from PowerPoint presentations, notes are being taken with electronic devices, and assignments are being uploaded onto the internet. This has all become the norm for me in the past few years. Technology in the classroom has settled down into the expected.

So I wasn’t that surprised when Sara, my English professor, played the YouTube video “Word Crimes” for us, to highlight common grammar mistakes. Although this particular video was very creative, using YouTube is a fairly typical teaching tool that has been used by many educators. After all, information in the form of entertainment is more likely to stay on the student’s mind. In fact, I showed that video to a friend later because we were discussing grammar after he committed a “word crime.”

Technology in the classroom hit a whole new level towards the end of class though: real-time grammar corrections. We received a link in our emails to two short paragraphs that were in desperate need of revision. Instead of putting us into groups or getting us to correct it ourselves, Sara had planned the ultimate act of collaboration by using the Google Docs feature on Google Drive. If you are unfamiliar with this online tool, Google Docs is a web portal used to share documents online so that several users can view, comment on, or edit them simultaneously. In this particular class, each of us with an electronic device could correct the paragraphs in real time.

If you don’t already see the brilliance of this teaching method, allow me to raise a few key benefits:

  • Any changes updated on everyone’s devices immediately
  • Sara could keep up with the edits of 25 students in one place
  • Students could participate anonymously and freely without feeling pressured or embarrassed
  • Sara could point out mistakes and make suggestions without putting anyone in the limelight
  • Similar correction suggestions were not repeated, saving time and effort
  • Each individual student could build upon other students’ ideas

As a result, within fifteen minutes we had all contributed to crafting two clear, concise, and grammatically correct paragraphs, under the guidance of our professor and each other.

The only shortfall of this classroom activity was that not every student had an electronic device with them. Several people pulled up a chair beside a classmate in order to be an active part of the editing. One suggestion I would make is to warn students a day ahead of time that bringing an electronic device would aid their participation in the next class. Having extra devices on hand to lend out to students who don’t have one available to them would also be beneficial to an inclusive learning environment.

Sometimes, it may be unclear whether technology is being used well or abused in a classroom setting. Educators still struggle with prescribing the correct amount and method of using such powerful tools when teaching. However, this in-class activity was definitely an eye-opener for me in terms of how technology can enhance the learning experience. I will definitely add this creative idea to my repertoire for future reference and use. Paper beats rock, but technology definitely beats paper!

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