A faculty member came to me last week who wanted to incorporate podcasting into his course and one of the questions he asked me was, should I assume that my students will already know how to use this technology (or something to that effect)? I told him that I try never to assume anything. Although we like to believe that our students are more technology savvy than the faculty, it is not always true. When speaking of traditional students, yes, they probably know how to use Facebook and download music, but do they even know what a podcast is? There are probably a lot who don’t. First of all, they don’t use the same terminology as we do, so that is something that needs to be addressed first. It is important to make sure everyone is on the same page at the beginning of the course, so that all of the students have the opportunity to be successful.
What if your student population is made up of “non-traditional” students, maybe students who are working full-time already in their field, or who just waited a little longer to go to college, choosing to have a family first…this population of students have a whole different list of concerns than your “traditional” students. Many of these students are already scared to come back to school because they feel out of place and in addition to that are intimidated by the new technology they feel they know nothing about.
Well, what did I tell this faculty member? I told him to get to know his student population, ask questions, create an environment where the students feel they can ask questions (that there are no stupid questions), and tell them up front what to expect in the class. I told him to include on his syllabus the technology requirements so they know up front what is expected to be successful. For example, he is going to require that they use iTunes to view his podcasts because he is creating enhanced podcasts with a Mac. I created an iTunes Cheat Sheet for him to put in his course and told him he should provide the link to download iTunes (which is free) in his syllabus the same as he would his required textbook.
I don’t think we can assume that our students know more about technology than we do. I think they know different things about technology, like how to use youTube and text message on their cell phone, but the types of technologies we use for education could be completely new to them.