Thursday, November 17, 2011

Technology and Stupidity

It is 2:05PM. It is Thursday. It is November 17th. I am sitting in a lab at my place of employment learning about all of the bagillion web-based tools that I am supposed to be using to educate my students. I do not own a cell phone, I have never been on Facebook, sent a Tweet or posted a Youtube clip. I still shop for VCRs at garage sales because I think they might make a comeback. I use Rand McNally instead of a GPS. To me a bluetooth is something you get from drinking a Slurpee.

I spent 1984-1991 in college. Back then, my professors had a piece of chalk and I had a book. There was no Power Point, no nothing. We used the inter-Library loan when the university library did not have a book. If we were lucky, our professor used colored chalk on occasion.

Funny, but I managed to learn a tremendous amount in this primative setting. So did others I went to college with.

When I became a professor I still had chalk and a book. Maybe a room had a t.v. and VCR but that was it.

20 years ago, 75% of my students passed my classes with a grade of A, B or C. 25% made a D, F or dropped the class. Today, in our world of ....hold on, he is teaching us about Camtasia, Jing, Tubechop, Flickr and other stuff....

O.K., I am back. Today, in our world of endless technology, 25% of my student make an A, B or C. 75% fail or drop my classes. I am a better economist today then I was then. The Law of Diminishing Returns is still years away for me. Yet, my students are dumber than ever.

How can this be? Why do my students who fail no longer make a 50 or 55 when they fail but routinely make grades around a 20 or 25?

I think we have destroyed students with technology. Public schools are a joke. We all know that. But access to free market technology has taken poorly prepared students and given them an entertainment option that takes away valuable study time. In the meantime, professors like me have to spend hours and hours learning about all of the tools we should be using to entertain students. I learned today that by going to I can make animated movies of my lectures!

Give me some chalk and I can teach the world. Give me animated movies and I can add to the silliness that has made the world stupid.

It is now 2:16PM. I have 44 minutes of my life yet to be wasted before I can go home.

Goodbye for now.


  1. Personally, chalk always makes me want to sneeze. I'm glad chalk, itself is out of the classrooms.

    But back to the point. I agree with you. As a student, I perform better in classes in which the teacher is more interactive. I stay more focused (and understand my lessons more thoroughly) when the instructor is up at the front actively engaging us by writing on a whiteboard or on a projector.

    I've noticed that I learn less when classes are dominated by powerpoints and videos. When that happens I also have less respect for my professors, AND I get upset. Am I paying $400-600 per class (after textbooks) so that my accounting professors can let a TA click through a powerpoint?! Maybe I feel this way, because I'm paying my own way through. Perhaps if I had scholarship (or parents that had planned ahead), it wouldn't hurt to see that happening.

  2. I always did so much better classes where teachers were involved with the students. One of my favorite classes was a film history; the teacher was so lively and pulled a student in with his excitement for the topics. One of my least favorite was a science course in which the teacher used power point for everything. I had to argue on every test about answers marked wrong because the text book which I read had different answers to the questions than what the power point had. She felt that we should read the books but not pay attention to what was in them because her power points were more important. I would receive credit for the answers but why was I paying hundreds of dollars for books to study from then told not to retain the information in those books?

  3. Mr. Chambless,

    I have an articulate (I hope) pro-technology argument.

    I am a ~stay-at-home~ ~mom~ with two young children; I was born in 1970, and am a technology junkie. - I love everything that comes along with technology. I am a home theater expert; I can build a computer with parts just for fun, and am an avid gamer, too.(somewhat atypical, yes, but I can relate to BOTH sides of the technology argument). I went to the book, chalk, and overhead projector with transparencies schools of the 70's and 80's. Everything went well with honor society and a fair blend of extra-curricular activities. Then, shortly after beginning college in the late 1980's, I met with some misfortune and dropped out.

    >>Fast-forward>> to 2010. I decided to return to University schooling recently, and I have to say that technology has helped me with school in ways I would have not easily been able to achieve before. I leave for school in the evenings when my husband returns home from work. During the day and into the late evenings I do most of my research online through the school library databases. These type of searches return scholarly articles and works, not the mass-media or blogger gibberish normally found on the world wide web (there is open source scholarly information out there but you would need heaps of patience, time, and a good internal filter to find that sort of information on the www).

    I have one online class. The other three classes are "traditional" setting in a classroom. The very young e-professor (equipped with a PhD) for my online class utilizes recorded voice, video, voice-over PowerPoint, and silent PowerPoint lectures with our extensive reading requirements. My regular class professors (one of whom is a who's-who of ex-NASA geologist-climatologists in his 70's) integrate PowerPoint, videos, reading, writing, and discussion along with the department required textbooks. I am in awe, the tools I have at my disposal now are truly invaluable. I feel more successful than ever before.

    Maybe colleges need a "responsible use of technology" requirement course for entry and transfer students?? Technology is not automatic for everyone, it is quite complicated. I feel fortunate and blessed that, for me, technology is rather intuitive - almost a 2nd nature.

    What is my point?
    There absolutely CAN be a balance with technology. Technology, I believe is a wonderful tool - when used correctly. We are in the digital age. With a little education and familiarity we can use these new technologies in a classroom setting to our advantage. People who understand digital products AND utilize them beneficially will ultimately be ahead.

    The problem is not the technology. The problem began with the parents not teaching their children basic values, virtues, and ethics such as: how to prioritize, working hard, working smart, and how to care about the results of work. Even when we let loose in college we were eventually able to return to the values we were taught when we were younger. We knew ~how~ to dig in and get to work. Young adults these days were not taught well enough the consequences of their poor actions and wrong choices. So, they choose to immerse themselves into the digital world and their grades suffer as a result, and they wonder what happened...

    ...or an even worse effect: ~because~ they did not learn accountability, respect for oneself and others, or a work ethic, they simply do not care.

    The other massive problem is the public school system which is playing the "no fail" game. Here again, No child has accountability any longer. One example of your essays shown on FOX news today articulated exactly that issue. The moral relativism taught today in the public schools results in what you are seeing in your classroom today with the huge failure rate.

    Young adults are not prepared. Their parents have failed them and the education system has failed them.

    University of Houston - Clear Lake
    nhaenggi at comcast dot net