Young, J. R. (2004, November 12). When good technology means bad teaching. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 51,12. Retrieved February 14, 2009 from
Young makes the case that use of the latest technology does not automatically translate into better classroom teaching. If technology is used badly, students will learn less than they would in a traditional, chalk-board outfitted classroom. Questionnaires given to students reveal they want their teachers to use technology, but they want it used well.
Colleges outfit classrooms with great technology, but colleges do not offer enough incentives for faculty to learn how to use it effectively. Faculty members who are not yet tenured are often too busy with research, supervising graduate students, etc. to learn technology on their own.
Young lists several technology failings in the modern college classroom.
  • Students do not like for faculty to place full sentences on PowerPoint presentations and read them word-for-word in class.
This practice is “PowerPoint abuse,” according to one student. It does not add to the class’s effectiveness. Educause Center for Applied Research conducted a survey of 300 college students at 13 colleges in 2004. The organization was surprised by the large number of negative responses they received concerning faculty use of technology. [No specific findings are cited.]

  • Students do not appreciate class time wasted by inept faculty fumbling with equipment that they do not know who to operate properly.
  • If a faculty member requires the use of discussion forums online, students want them to moderate those discussions so other students do not take up time complaining about course disappointments instead of carrying on a meaningful discussion. Students want discussions to be integrated fully into the course and not just “tacked onto the syllabus.”
  • Students do not appreciate class time wasted with faculty teaching them the newest “quirky web tool.” If the technology does not contribute to the course objectives, students would rather not have class time taken up with it.
  • Students do not want a teacher simply to dump lecture notes onto PowerPoint and read them to the class.
  • Chalkboards and transparencies are preferred over inept use of PowerPoint. At least a teacher can write on a transparency or chalkboard to enliven the class time.
  • Students feel less obligated to attend class if the teacher puts PowerPoint lecture outlines online for students’ use. (One professor said his class attendance dropped by 20% when he placed his lecture notes on the web.)
  • If the classroom is outfitted with a computer at every desk, and the professor is dull and inept at the use of technology, students will “surf the web,” or check e-mail instead of paying attention.
Some professors have overcome the challenge to use technology to interest their students. Examples include:

Examples include:
· Illustrated lessons can be put on CD-ROM disks. Students go through the lessons, and then they come to class prepared to discuss the material.
· PowerPoint presentations can still be posted on the web, but the professor can strategically place “blanks” in the outlines that he or she fills in during the class lecture.
· PowerPoint slides used in class can also be filled with images, maps, graphs, etc. that “spice up” what is being given in the lecture.
Students express general concern today with the professors’ use of online delivery platforms for coursework—i.e. WEB-CT, Blackboard, etc. Discussions should be integrated into the course and not used to create the impression that they are “busy work.”
“Smart rooms” with technology unused by a faculty member teaching there also frustrates students. Students want faculty members to use technology, including PowerPoint and internet sites in class. They also want “smart savvy teachers” using “smart classrooms.”
The answer may well be to equip all classrooms with some “smart elements,” e.g. computer, media projector, internet access. Then, all faculty members could learn how to utilize technology in a series of smaller steps. Students would be more appreciative and teachers would be less frustrated with technology.