As an undergraduate engineering student, they constantly prided themselves on the amount of group work that we would engage in and how integrated technology was into the curriculum. It was for good reason because it was as advertised. The collaborative atmosphere was fostered from day one with at least 2 courses per semester requiring teamwork of some form and, starting with our freshman classes laptops were mandatory every day. By my senior year, tablet PCs were required and integrated into the classroom assignments as well; an unprecedented move in the years before iPads were ubiquitous.
“Commandment 11: thou shalt not Facebook during class!”
Years down the road, I find myself thankful for the forced interaction with both those who approached social interaction with ease and finesse as well as those who preferred solitude. Adopting the latest technology, albeit by force, made us recognize both the importance of and the massive potential of being an early adopter of what would eventually become mainstream technologies. These have been important lessons that have helped me wear the many hats that I’ve worn in my life.
Fast forward 10 years to the high school and college students of now and what has changed? Companies and organizations still need people who can work on multiple teams simultaneously, deal with different (and sometimes difficult) personalities with ease, and can adopt new technologies and minimize costly learning curve times in the work place.
Ironically however, these two seemingly unrelated points of pride for universities have now converged as new technologies are being used to foster collaboration between students across a classroom table as well as across the globe. But the question we need to ask before hurriedly jumping on the speeding bullet train of progress is: Are we leaving anything behind on the platform?
Throughout the years I’ve had the now defunct Hotmail, AIM, and Myspace; and currently have Facebook, Skype, Vine, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, YikYak, Kik, Venmo, and so on. I think part of my education encouraging early adoption of technology has kept me from fearing the advent of new technology and seeing its potential, even in a classroom setting. For better or for worse, these technologies have created a place for people to express themselves, their opinions and views in an unprecedented manner.
How my students see me when they notice me checking my Snapchat before class:
It also has connected the world and created a global community, including a community of learners. However great the potential of the internet, I am still cautious and I understand the importance a birthday phone call in lieu of a Facebook like, stopping by someone’s office instead of sending and email and awaiting a reply, or a video chat discussion of a book as opposed to an email chain where perhaps some nuances are lost in the inflections in our voices and body language.
I suppose the major challenge going forward for educators seeking to make a more well rounded in and out of class room experience by integrating technology will be just how much is too much, and at what point will the companies and organizations that we send our graduates to start sending the students back for ‘personality and interaction’ training, because although they may be able to make “friends” and generate “likes” online, we all still need to get along IRL.