Editor's Note (The View From Here)

The Role of Technology

Today’s college freshman has had a cell phone since middle school; learned to use a computer in kindergarten; has a headphone permanently attached to the ear; and eats, sleeps, drinks and drives while sending and responding to emails and texts. In the time it will take each of them to get through freshman year, all the technology they own will be outdated or obsolete! Technology use has become a necessity. I can’t imagine going to work without access to email, my computer or my spell checker. But if I think back not that many years ago, I would have never dreamed of the changes that technology would bring. Roll the clock back just 40 years and none of what we depend on today even existed. It wasn’t until April Fool’s Day in 1976 that Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs released the Apple I that started Apple computers, and it wasn’t until 1992 that the “World Wide Web” was released to the public.

These developments were game changers in how we lived, how we did business and how we learned. Today, advances in technology, the need for a higher education and our recent financial crisis all came together to form the perfect storm — an idea storm. How could universities do more with the resources they have, increase the number of students they reach and provide a more individualized learning experience? The latest game changers are developments in the cloud, big data and MOOCs (massive open online courses). A recent AP article outlined the effects in this way: “Higher education is becoming ‘unbundled.’ Individual classes and degrees are losing their connections to single institutions, in much the same way iTunes has unbundled songs from whole albums, and the Internet is increasingly unbundling television shows and networks from bulky cable packages.”

Although a game changer, everything that is not working in education cannot be fixed by technology alone. High tech needs to be balanced with high touch. While some students can be self-disciplined and self-directed, most I know can’t. In fact, most adults I know can’t. Yes… technology is changing the way we teach and learn. No… it is not the death of colleges and universities. The goal is to blend the best aspects that both have to offer!

This article originally appeared in the College Planning & Management August 2013 issue of Spaces4Learning.