Dr. E. Scott Adler of the Political Science Department does not consider his use of technology to be particularly innovative. He says it’s not much different than how other professors use technology in their classrooms. What is different about it, though, is how Adler thinks about technology’s interaction with learning. “Students can connect their academic experience, what they’re learning in the classroom, to what’s happening in the world.”
Adler was recognized by ASSETT for his use of technology in the classroom, especially in his Introduction to the American Political System course. Like many professors, Adler utilized clickers to take attendance, administer informal quizzes or to gauge students’ understanding of material. Adler also used clickers to ask student opinions on political issues that related to what they were discussing in class. He then compared the students’ opinions with polls conducted of the general public. “I could do a slightly more sophisticated analysis of the data they were providing [from the clicker questions] as a means of showing them what political scientists do.”
He used the in class polls to show correlations between different opinions and connect to current events. “[The class] was during the election season and we spent a lot of time talking about the elections… and how voters felt about specific candidates or issues. It was very easy for me to ask the exact same questions to the students.”
Along with this real-world connection, Adler also believes that technology provides a different in class experience. Adler uses D2L to post lecture slides before class so that students can print them out and follow along during lecture. “Instead of scribbling down notes, the students can more easily connect and listen to the discussion.” Adler also thinks that professors can use technology in the classroom for testing different ways of teaching. “I’m hoping the technology will reveal some of the best practices with respect to teaching that can also be best for students’ learning.”
A former member of the ASSETT board, Adler is no stranger to incorporating technology into the classroom. However, he believes it is crucial to understand the limitations of technology. While it can supplement and enhance the classroom, it should never be used as a replacement for the in-class experience. “[Technology] is not a replacement for the kind of discussion that occurs when you’re with a group. [Students] still have to do the normal things that students have been doing for centuries. [Teachers] are just trying to enhance that experience through technology, not replace it.”
With the world changing and becoming more technologically integrated by the minute, it would be easy to fall behind. “Education has to adapt,” Adler says.