U niversity of Colorado senior Olivia Fine picked up her iPhone from a table in the University Memorial Center Wednesday before she headed to class.
The phone will be attached to her hand during her walk across campus. But as soon as class begins, the electronic device that has become a necessity for Fine, will be pushed aside.
“We’re really not supposed to have them out in class,” Fine said.
While most teachers view smartphones as a distraction, others are taking advantage of the technology by challenging students with innovative thinking.
Daniel Schaefer, a CU doctoral candidate who works in the journalism school, coaches professors on how to advance their lessons with technology. He helps instructors learn about digital resources — like smartphone apps and web tools that can add dimension to the course topic.
“There’s all these other dimensions that come with incorporating technology into the classroom,” Schaefer said. “It’s challenging students to think outside the paper, outside the box. It helps them illustrate the story, paper or research they’re working on.”
Fine said she would love to start using her phone to turn in assignments through transfer applications like “Bump” or “Shake to Bounce” apps.
“I always have my phone,” Fine said. “I don’t have a printer at home so I’m always having to rely on the hours in the labs or pay to print at the Ink Spot.”
Mitch Block, who will be a sophomore in the fall, said he doesn’t care how his assignments get turned in. Technology or not, he will concentrate on his work.
Schaefer is hoping professors will start using smartphones and web resources to create assignments that include more multimedia.
Though some professors are moving toward technology, others still fear that smartphones, laptops and tablets are distracting to students.
CU English professor Scarlet Bowen said she has seen the benefits of using Facebook and other multimedia for classes, but the learning curve is keeping her from adapting more technology into her classes.
“I do think a lot of professors are worried about the distraction,” Bowen said. “My classes are structured for discussion mainly. So, technology doesn’t always fit into that.”
Besides Facebook, Bowen said she doesn’t use much technology for after-class material because she hasn’t found the time to learn how to implement it into her courses.
“I would like to continue with these types of things, but it’s hard to find the time when you’re up for tenure,” she said.
Bowen said she prefers students turn in physical copies of assignments, which is easier for a large class. However, when she has a smaller student load, digital copies work fine, Bowen said.
Schaefer is working with a team of CU staff members to develop campus-specific smartphone apps that will be helpful for students and teachers. Schaefer said the apps are only in discussion at the moment, but he is hoping they will be available in the future.
Don Cooper, co-director of CU’s neuroscience undergraduate program, is taking technology in his classroom to the next level.
Aside from a class Facebook page, Twitter discussions and blogs, Cooper engages students with photograph assignments taken with their smartphone.
“I have tried to structure the new neuroscience major using innovative online tools,” Cooper said.
Cooper said he often feels isolated when it comes to technology use in academics.