Post source: Applications in Biology for a New Generation

Computers were once just machines that could calculate equations. They initially had no role in our day to day lives. This obviously changed and at the same time there was a transition in our society from books to television. Was this the first transition of its kind? – no. If you go way back stories were not read but instead told. People questioned the reasoning behind loosing the emotional input of an oral story telling and instead relying on written words alone to create the image. So as we put our books down and reading became almost obsolete for some, television took hold of our society. Instead of talking about what book they read or what was in the paper, people talked about the show they watched last night or the pictures being broadcast from the war in Vietnam. So has this lead to less intelligent people – no intelligence is not gained or lost by life experience. We do have a different society one that has most recently traded the television for personal computers, tablets, iPads, iPods, iPhones, etc. It is different but is it bad?

Does the computer and the internet stifle learning. Some would argue yes others would agree no. I think it depends upon the individual. Some teachers use the internet very effectively in their courses while others allow it to be a baby sitter of sorts. Some students push the envelope and learn new and fascinating things while others hang out in chat rooms. Is this any different from what other generations have seen?

Students are looking for hybrid courses where they can have the best of both worlds. When sold correctly hybrids have been quite successful. Student use varying forms of technologies in lectures today. I have students who follow my notes and take additional notes on their PCs, others go to Blackboard and make hard copies of the notes and bring them to class, and students even bring up my notes in lab on their phones to reference what they are studying. Students do not want to be bored. They surround themselves with this technology to stimulate their senses.

But one common mistake is the assumption that all students today want the technology and understand how to use the technology. When one book publisher did a study with 2000 students they show that less than half of the students wanted eBooks. They wanted a book to hold in their hands instead – thus my students who make hard copies of the notes. Their study also show very few students – less than 20% – want school related materials sent to their smart phones. They said that their phone were for more personal use not work. We need a more accurate picture of our entire student population not just the one’s being classically discussed as “Generation Next” – because a lot of the 18-21 year olds at this school missed the “Next” lecture and don’t prescribe to the stereotype. We have to look at all students not just the very intelligent vocal ones. You know the loud minority.

One last thought – is the internet providing valuable information? It completely depends upon where you go. I am not impressed with Wikipedia. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can edit that information. I edit chapters in textbooks on endocrinology and reproduction because I have spent many years studying these area. But I can go to Wikipedia and change sports statistics – I have never watched more than 10 minutes of any game even when forced to sit in the stadium. Should I have this power – I think not. We have to educate our students about how to utilize good internet sources and have good internet sense. The CDC is a wonderful website that is a great supplement to use in Microbiology. There are also photographs and information provided by many zoos that helps us in zoology courses where we do not have enormous specimen library’s. The internet takes us to some terrific places, we just need to be aware of its limitations.