Academic journal article College Student Journal

Teaching with the Lights Out: What Do We Really Know about the Impact of Technology Intensive Instruction? *

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Teaching with the Lights Out: What Do We Really Know about the Impact of Technology Intensive Instruction? *

Article excerpt

In this study, we attempt to determine the extent to which students enrolled in economic courses benefit from extensive use of modern technology based teaching/learning tools such as electronic slide presentations. Our results are mixed. We find more support for the traditional teaching pedagogies as compared to what is being customarily used in many of our classes. Survey findings support the view that technology intensive instructional innovations do not necessarily imply increased student engagement or achievement in undergraduate classes. To the contrary, both goals appear to be better served by traditional pedagogies at this point. According to our results, there is no correlation between the chalk and talk method and passive learning and student disengagement, a correlation that is widely assumed. More than 95 percent of our survey respondents placed greater value on the instructor's lecturing skills in their learning experience compared to alternative methods.


Quite recently in universities across the country, the incentive to adopt technology based approaches to teaching has been gaining momentum. Strategies to implement simulations and modeling, multimedia materials, the internet and web-based learning into the classroom are rapidly coming into fashion. With few exceptions, technology based instructional innovations are already positively impacting faculty performance reviews for promotion, tenure, and pay raises. Hiring practices have been affected as well. During an interview, job candidates dare not say they use the chalk and talk method in the classroom for fear of being judged to be technologically illiterate and/or an inept instructor. As expected, there appears to be a growing disposition among educators, not only in our high schools but in colleges and universities to disparage the chalk and talk pedagogy.

Underlying this new attitude is the largely unquestioned assumption that technology based approaches are superior to chalk and talk, that the latter discourages active learning and encourages passive listening. For instance, Becker and Watts (2001) predicate their study on the juxtaposition of active learning technology-based approaches to the chalk and talk method. By contrast, Thomas J. Shuell and Stacey L. Farber (2001, p. 120) surmise that potential benefits from using technology in teaching depend both on the characteristics of students and the ways in which it is used. Likewise, R. E. Clark (1983, pp.445-459) uses his famous truck metaphor to propose that the medium of instruction has no more impact on student learning than a grocery delivery truck would have on consumers' nutritional habits. A majority of the published research on the effects of technology on learning is, however, based on opinions or practices that have evolved since the advent of affordable personal computers. As a result, many of the predictions about the beneficial effects of technology in the class-room have not been sufficiently documented or validated across the curriculum.

In this research inquiry, we ask if the increased focus on technology might be coming at the expense of student engagement, learning, class participation and achievement. One of the major objectives of our study then, is to test whether technology based instruction enhances or impedes student engagement and learning in comparison to the traditional chalk and talk method. Although there are discipline-specific aspects to this project (not surprising given that both authors' discipline is economics), its conclusions and policy recommendations may be relevant to other disciplines across the academy and will, we hope, stimulate dialogue among college instructors in new and meaningful ways. Another benefit of the study is to furnish some degree of logical rationale for proceeding to full-scale implementation of technology in every subject and level of matriculation.

To date, an extensive literature has developed that discusses methods for integrating technology into the economics classroom (e. …

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