Education technology has been met with wonder "down under." An article in the March 20, 2011 edition of University World News reports that the innovative devices employed by one professor at Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia "is helping reshape the age-old formal lecture with its talking head and passive students."
Well beyond any "Wow!" factor, this educational technology, which includes "tablet PCs with touch-sensitive screens, clickers and screencasts," has served an unglamorous but no less necessary purpose by helping "to boost student learning, improve their marks and even keep drop-out rates down."
Dr. Birgit Loch, the professor in question, sunnily opines that the education technology she has integrated into her course has made for a generally positive learning experience for students, increasing not only their knowledge base but their socialization. "'Using clickers, students respond to questions anonymously so the less confident can still participate,'" the article quotes Loch as saying. "'The clickers also allow me to gauge how many students understand the content and this makes a huge difference because it lets me know whether I should keep focusing on a particular area or if it's time to move on to the next subject.'"
The method of instruction Loch describes introduces a "bottom up" element into a traditionally "top down" situation. Instead of simply deluging students with information, as the lecture format encourages, Loch's technologically enhanced method of instruction, by encouraging and enabling real-time feedback from students, adds an element of useful dynamism. With their responses Loch's students control the direction and tempo of her discussion, and thus collectively shape the course itself into one that most readily serves their needs.
Putting some control over course content into student's hands, though seemingly a radical notion, really only promises to return higher education to its original purpose of illuminating minds with the best that thousands of years of human intellectual effort has to offer. Rather than impressive credentials, enlightened minds ought to represent the education industry's end-product.