For the multimedia generation, lectures, presentations go high tech

Maria Martinez

CSUN is creating new opportunities in teaching and learning by integrating networking, digital and audio visual technologies into classrooms throughout the campus with media packages.

Standard “chalk-talk” lectures can’t hold the attention of a generation whose brains are wired to MTV, YouTube and MySpace, as youth are more able to figure out how to manage PDA systems, MP3 players and digital cameras..

Leslie Gillman, reservations and academic facilities coordinator at CSUN, said 157 of the 217 large lecture halls on campus are what are commonly known as “smart rooms.” These rooms have ceiling-mounted LCD projectors and projection screens, VCRs and DVD/CD combinations, sound systems, telephones, closed caption decoders and desktop computers that include wireless mice and keyboards. With the click of a button, professors can seamlessly ease from one medium to another.

“(Smart rooms) make it easier for professors to go from video to computer to projector,” Gillman said.

There’s an ongoing process of refreshing and updating all equipment and 20 more “smart rooms” are to be created this year.

Faculty members are also adding to students’ learning by developing PowerPoint presentations, course Web sites and online teaching materials designed to enhance instruction.

Professors should be able to teach with the best technology available, said Norman Herr, professor of computer science and computer education in the department of secondary education.

But those trying to change the traditional pedagogy should take into consideration which instructional methods work best with certain disciplines.

Technology can provide simulation for various types of events. But he adds, “newer technology doesn’t mean better instruction.”

“In a physics class, motion will be easier to understand with computer graphics,” he said.

He said he feels there is high misuse of software technology and what he calls “death by PowerPoint.”

“PowerPoint is the most abused technology. It’s counterproductive and doesn’t require (the) engagement of students.”

Although PowerPoint is easy and convenient to use and allows professors to take the information from one lecture to another and share with students online, Herr said, it also encourages passivity.

“Students become passive and so the technology becomes worthless.”

PowerPoint can discourage interaction between teacher and student and professors frequently overload students with too many slides and move through material too quickly, Herr said.

Professor Lucy Parker, from the department of computer science disagrees with Herr. In her Computer Science 100 courses aptly titled “Computers: Their Impact and Use,” students have not become passive learners due to newer technology, she said.

“My students have become very resourceful when it comes to using new technology to find information to aid them in this course,” says Parker.

Parker said she uses a tremendous amount of technology in her classroom, ranging from WebCT, textbook Web sites, movies, and online clips. She also puts them in groups to work together and hold discussions. There is constant interaction between her and the students, she adds.

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