I will discuss two ways students use technology to take control of what they learn and thus improve their rate of return on effort. Like the best teachers, the right technology helps students take more responsibility in the learning process.
The first application of technology is a computer managed instruction program called Delphi, which I have worked on for the past 15 years. The program harnesses the computer to handle files of essay questions and answers. The files consist of questions students have asked, answers given one another's questions, and commentaries they provide each other's answers. In biology, political science, and literature, or other classes where Delphi is used -- on Monday, for example, after students have completed a reading assignment or listened to a lecture, they enter questions about the material into the Delphi computer files; Wednesday, they answer each other's questions drawn at random from the pool that were entered Monday; then on Friday, they comment on and evaluate each other's answers. Without the teacher having to read all of the questions and answers, students get regular exercise in writing, thinking, and thorough feedback from at least three randomly selected classmates participating in the weekly review.
Woolpy is Professor of Biology and Psychology, Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana.