Seton Hill University "Technology Advantage"

Not just a student laptop program.  Griffin Technology Advantage

Technology Provided to Every Student

Beginning in the fall of 2010, all first year undergraduate students at Seton Hill will receive a 13″ MacBook laptop and their choice of iPhone or iPod Touch. You will have complete access to these mobile technologies for classes as well as at all times for personal use. After two years, Seton Hill will replace your laptop with a new one – one that you can take with you when you graduate! With this technology at your fingertips, you can create a just-in-time learning environment, stay in touch with professors, advisors, and classmates, research any topic at any time, engage in hybrid and fully on-line courses, and access a whole host of Seton Hill technology services. In doing so, you will be learning the technological skills you’ll need in the twenty-first century workforce.

Faculty Committed to Highly Engaged Learning
Seton Hill’s faculty understand that each student has a unique learning style. Some of you learn best by attending lectures and writing papers; others excel when given the opportunity to research a topic and create
a video or an audio podcast. To this end, Seton Hill is committed to moving past the teaching of information literacy (understanding how to locate and evaluate information from resources that range from the
traditional library to sophisticated online sources) to what we like to call “creative literacy” – teaching you not just how to find the information you need, but how to process it in the way that allows you to make sense of the information, apply the information to actual situations, and solve problems.

I once sat through a four-hour training session, during which this was all I could see of the instructor.

I once sat through a four-hour training session, during which this was all I could see of the instructor.

No, this is not our goal.

In one of the Little House on the Prairie books, Laura and Mary were caught by surprise on their first day of school when the teacher told them they would need to buy a slate and a pencil — significant expenses for a fiercely self-reliant family. The technology that was new to them, and a surprise to their parents, was crucial to the pedagogy of the time.

I once spent four hours in an allegedly “face-to-face” training session where all I saw of the instructor was hair and one eyebrow. This is not what the Griffin Technology Advantage plan aspires to!

The new tech plan brings technology into every classroom, but I’m actually even more excited at the thought that a shift to laptops means that — unlike the room pictured here —  every classroom at SHU can also be instantly retrofitted.

Everybody close your laptops.

We’re going to have a face-to-face discussion for 25 minutes.  After that, I’ll ask you to go online and call me to your screen once you have found two academic articles that pertain to the discussion we’ve been having.  Once I’ve approved your articles, I’ll place you in a group based on your interests, and each group will select one article to read.  If you finish early, see the online instructions for Exercise 2, which asks you to analyze the article your group chose.

Now let’s start discussing the reading.  First off, why do you think we’re reading this article as part of this unit?  Sally?

According to Plato, Socrates worried that this new technology “writing” would ruin people’s memory. It would encourage them to pull a scroll from a shelf and *consult* it, simply *looking up* what they wanted to know, rather than listen to an expert speaker recite the text over and over until they, too, had committed it to memory.

Paper is such a good storage medium that, if our brains can outsource most of the data storage, we can spend more time identifying and exploring connections between the vast amounts of knowledge that has been safely stored on paper.  Socrates feared a technology he saw as shallow and impersonal (anyone could stand up and read from a scroll, without actually understanding the material well enough to participate in a discussion about it), but once scholars had written texts they could count on, they developed a system of footnoting, citing, and cataloging, and a new form of knowledge-acquisition, that we know of as the academic essay.

Today, computers have automated so much of the work that once went into finding and citing sources, that we need to teach students to slow down — not to trust the first link that pops up on Google, or statistics that appear on activist web pages.  And the best way to do that is to be with them, guiding and advising, as they conduct their online research.

We still value the ability to speak and remember — the skills that Socrates thought were the only ones that really mattered —  but most modern educators would feel that in the time it took to get students to memorize, word-for-word, the entire text of Hamlet, they would instead gain far more by reading 20 different works of Shakespeare.  Unless, of course, your goal was to have the students put on a performance of Hamlet, in which naturally, repetition and memorization are inseparable from the educational experience.

You probably know the joke about the professor who would tape-record his own lectures.  When he knew he was going to miss a few classes in a row, he asked his assistant to play old tapes in his absence.  Then one
day, when he decided to show up for the last few minutes of class to talk with his students, he saw the room was empty, except for the tape recorders the students had left on the seats, recording what his tape was saying.

That’s a silly but useful example of how NOT to use technology.  When the SHU tech plan was being explored, faculty insisted that a robust training program be part of the proposal, because they did not want to introduce
computers into the classroom unless they knew exactly when and how technology would help their teaching.