Google education guru: Classroom laptop bans make no sense

Google Education Evangelist calls for cultural change at universities to embrace technology in helping students learn

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great research that has come out of your universities and ask ourselves ‘What does good learning look like?’ and ‘How do we use technology to take advantage of that?’”

Given that the expectations for technology have changed so much in adults’ lifetimes, Casap said you better believe that younger people have even higher expectations, from ubiquitous Wi-Fi to yes, being able to take notes on a laptop in class.

“Tell a 10-year-old kid that you’re going to spend time in a place that doesn’t have Wi-Fi,” he said. “They’re like what, are we going camping?”

STUDENT-CENTRIC IT

This sort of student-centric thinking has started to consume university IT staffs, according to those who spoke at the conference. Ray Lefebvre, VP of IT and CIO at Bridgewater State University, described how this Massachusetts school -- in conjunction with DubLabs -- has developed a mobile application in lockstep with student input, even to the point of having students produce the videos promoting BSU Mobile. Helping students succeed, from easing communications with faculty and fellow students via Microsoft Office 365 integration to helping them find their way around campus, is key to retaining those students, Lefebvre said.

“I can’t stress how much we involved students from Day 1,” he said.

BSU Mobile Bridgeport State University/DubLabs

BSU Mobile app for Bridgewater State University's community

Separately, members of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga IT team stressed how everything they do is rooted in helping students succeed, even to the point of spelling that out in their mission statement (“Helping Students Achieve Excellence Through Technology”) and Vision statement. In other words, every time a tech performs a seemingly mundane task such as upgrading a server or changing a classroom projector, they should be doing so with the goal of improving how students can learn, said CIO Tom Hoover.

Students do think about learning differently these days, Google’s Casap said. He referenced his older daughter scoffing at his suggestion that she pick up a book or DVD on how to play the ukulele when she could very well learn to use the instrument by watching YouTube videos. He also mentioned his teenage son teaching himself to code in Java, with help from friends, and never asking his Dad for help (“I work at Google and he didn’t ask me!”). As for his 2-year-old, well, he’s quite happy with her memorizing her ABCs and not googling info about the alphabet yet.

Casap explained, though, that just because students have grown up in a techier world than adults doesn’t mean they instinctively know how to use all of it effectively. “They do two things poorly at the same time as poorly as we do,” he said, referring to the myth propagated by teens that they have mastered multitasking.

So it’s not like these kids don’t need help learning to be digital leaders who can vet/ research really good information and protect their online privacy, Casap said. Students also need universities to help them gain entrepreneurial and collaborative skills given that so many of them foresee a time when they will be working for themselves in a world where they “can buy some cloud space, open up a Google Apps account and start their own business,” Casap said.

In the end, Casap said educators need to be asking students not what they want to be when they grow up, but what problems they want to solve, and then help them learn what they need to know to solve those problems.

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