More training on classroom tech needed, profs say

With a growing number of Portland State classrooms involving intricate technology, PSU maintains no requirement for instructor training in technological use.

75 percent of all general access classrooms on campus include some sort of technology on the PSU campus. With technology playing a part in majority of PSU classrooms, some PSU professors said training for the technology could be useful to faculty and students, while others believe there is no use in requiring additional training.

Bob Gillis, an adjunct professor the Philosophy Department, said he thinks that instructors ideally should combine knowledge of the material with technology. He said that he thinks a required instructor training might be a good idea, even though is unsure how program would work.

“I assume it would be helpful,” Gillis said. “I’d probably grumble, but it would do me good.”

Daniel DeWeese, an English instructor at PSU and head of the Writing Center, finds no problem with a lack of technological knowledge. DeWeese said he thinks that the variance in department types at PSU causes a difficulty in implementing any set of criteria for professor knowledge.

“I think it’s a department by department thing,” he said. “What is it that instructors need to know how to do?”

The issue at PSU is common around the state of Oregon. A recent national report by Education Week Magazine, gave Oregon K-12 schools an overall grade of D on technology use. The report, called “Technology Counts: The Information Edge,” graded states in three areas: access to technology, use of technology and capacity to use technology.

More specifically Oregon received the grade of F in “Capacity to Use Technology,” a category that grades state schools on whether or not they have technology standards and technology training for teachers. Oregon is currently the only state without any required training or testing programs for its teachers.

Doug McCartney, manager of Classroom Audio Visual Services and Instruction and Research Services, said he does not think there is any reasonable way to implement a campus-wide training program for instructors, even department by department. He said the hindrance for instructors to get trained comes down to a time management factor.

“People have time to pick up the helping guide,” McCartney said, “but they may not have time for a 15-20 minute training session.”

DeWeese said that there are avenues on campus for instructors to learn about the technology they are using in the classrooms, such as the AV department and the Help Desk. DeWeese acknowledged that instructors are capable to learn more about on campus technology, but said that their capability is not the problem.

“It’s not so much a technology issue, as a preparation issue,” he said.

There are many avenues open for instructors to check out and learn about new technologies, including the Office of Information Technologies run Help Desk in Smith Memorial Student Union room 18 and the Audio Visual Services department located in the SMSU room 1.

The Help Desk works with students and teachers as an asset with their use of computer-related technology, while the AV department focuses mainly on checking out equipment and instructing professors on proper use of technology in the classrooms. Currently there are no plans to require professors to be trained in new technologies.

When instructors checkout equipment or decide to use one of the 74 PSU technology classrooms, they have the option of a quick training session with an Audio Visual Services’ staff member. In addition, if instructors experience a problem in a high tech classroom and need immediate assistance, they can pick up a phone that directly connects them to the AV department.

“Someone’s always got a good pair of walking shoes to get down there,” McCartney said.

The options are there to learn, but the voluntary nature of these programs can be a hindrance for some instructors to take the next step in their technological advancement. In addition, some instructors see too much technology in the classroom as a potential learning barrier. Like DeWeese, some professors are pushing in the opposite direction, away from technology based learning, back to the traditional classroom.

DeWeese does not agree with the assumption that using more technology means students learn more. He said that in his experience, when an instructor turns on a laptop for a Power Point presentation, students have a tendency to shut off.

“Technology often makes people passive,” he said.

Gillis said that technology might be a crutch that some instructors use.

“It can be used to pretend there is content when there isn’t,” he said.