In-class distractions? There's an app for that

Photo by Adam Schwery

Adam Schwery
Staff Reporter

With more students having iPads on campus, the opportunity for distraction would seem to be higher than ever, but some faculty members at Briar Cliff say distractions are not anything new.

“This debate is not new,” says Julius Fleschner, the reference and instruction librarian. “The distraction has been there for about the last decade in higher education, but it’s just that the technology is smaller.”

Fleschner, who is teaching a freshmen college survival skills class, says it depends on the students and the professors to work together. He says students need to meet halfway with focusing and professors can work on making the lessons a little more engaging.

“There is not one simple silver bullet,” says Fleschner. “I think if both sides made progress and could meet somewhere in the middle, it would make for a perfect moment.” 

Fleschner says it’s coming to a day and age where everyone is almost expected to be connected at all times and people are starting to realize that with the iPads. 

“I think that 99 percent of the faculty are wanting to use this in a personal way but they fear that their students will be on Facebook and Twitter during class,” says Fleschner.

Jenna Soleo-Shanks, a professor in the theatre department, says she tried to use the iPads everyday but it turned out to be rather difficult to do.

“I think that I needed a year to become more fluent in the technology,” says Soleo-Shanks.

She says that people think about the younger generation as “digital natives” but just because you are born somewhere does not mean you are fluent.

“I felt that the students would be able to open up their iPads and understand everything I was telling them,” says Soleo-Shanks, “I think my expectations were too high last year and tried to use it way too often.

“I think now it is up to people to know digital etiquette and understand they should not be playing games while a professor is talking.”  

Soleo-Shanks says she has gotten better control and became savvier this year in the classroom in regards to using the iPads. This includes calling people out during class if they are using their iPads that do not deal with class.

“The technology is not causing new problems it just highlights ones,” says Soleo-Shanks. “As far as having it in the classroom BCU should have more experts to help out.”

Mark Gierach, director of educational technologies, joined BCU this year to help with some of the needs with the iPads and how students and faculty can use technology in an efficient way in the classrooms.

“The tablet in general can be a wonderful tool,” says Gierach, “but right now we need to focus on how we can use it to help the curriculum rather than hurt it.”

Gierach says Briar Cliff is working towards a unified and consistent classroom.  

“Students should be able to walk into a classroom and know what apps they will be using,” says Gierach, “vice versa with the professors knowing the students know how the apps run.”

Since classrooms have become more technologically oriented, it would seem hard for students not to embrace it.

“Students are starting to see the iPads as an expectation, “says Fleschner, “knowing so much information is at their fingertips, and this is the progress we are loving to see.” 


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Submitted by braunschweigc on Thu, 11/29/2012 - 22:09

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