Every academic year as I enter the classroom, I find a newer generation of students. I look at their years of birth and think to myself, "Oh My God, this is the year I got my Bachelor's degree and now here they are at the bachelor's level," or "wow I feel so ancient when I see this DOB (date of birth)."
Many a times the course name remains the same, sometimes the content shifts, but what I find fascinating about my job is how the students tackle the subject each term and the type of resources or technology they use to comprehend content, ease the learning process and communicate with the teacher.
Students that walk into my class today are digital natives. Internet is their way of being and they use it for everything (watching movies, reading reviews before watching movies, browsing for top eating joints, direction to those eating locations, calorie counting, anonymous advice seeking, searching for information on almost anything, connecting with friends etc). Thus, I can safely say that the Internet is their natural habitat.
However, I come from an era of transition -- from the good old dusty hardcopies to digital soft copies of everything. Our class experience involved super strict teachers that we had limited access to, standard textbooks, home-works, solution sets, class tests, midterms, final exams etc. Times now have changed. All thanks to technology.
Our modern classrooms use formal and informal modes of learning, which greatly enhances the learning experience. As it connects students to other students, subject teachers, and experts in the field worldwide, free of charge. This type of teaching would sound fictional and from a sci-fi movie in yester-years.
What I find even more fascinating today is the growing use of informal technology like Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat to connect with teachers inside and outside of the classroom. Students today ask if I "Sap", meaning if I use the application of Whatsapp on my phone.
There is a growing trend of using Whatsapp in classrooms. Though it is informal, it is still quite a powerful teaching tool that can aid in the learning of students. Students send me images of their work and ask for feedback. They create Whatsapp class groups in which they discuss their projects, ask clarification or simply expand on the learnings of the class. Some use it to send me a location message to track the status of their field project, others use it as a medium to send me voice notes when they are anxious about exams or are simply late to a lecture and don't want to be marked absent.
Technology has personalized teaching more than ever before. However, sometimes it is overbearing because one is always connected, and there is no time to rejuvenate. I often wonder if this level of information access is healthy for student growth and development. Or do we need to seek the golden mean of information sharing?
Finally, I believe that regardless of conditions and types of technology available, the quality of educational experience will still always depend on the integrity of the teachers, interest of the students, and the robustness of the curriculum involved.