Education technology in Quebec
has a home on the Web
Notice of this conference was listed on Profetic, the Web site recently
created by the Quebec university network to collect and disseminate information
about academic activities at its member institutions.
Theres a wealth of information at this site, which is in French.
In general, it is divided into four sections on the subject of educational
technology: documentation, teaching, training and multimedia production.
For example, the documentation section includes bibliographies, catalogues,
glossaries and dictionaries, guides and manuals, images and sound, Webzines
and links to related sites.
All teachers and scholars are encouraged to explore the site, at http://profetic.org/,
make suggestions, and take an active part in this project. The name is
from professeur and TIC, the acronym for technologies
Just as a panellist was about to begin his lecture on the wonders of technology
in the classroom, his computer failed and a technician was called to fix
the problem. The audience waited in silence. The very technological tool
the panellist was about to praise was causing him to delay his presentation.
How many hours of class time are wasted every week because of faulty equipment?
Do students really benefit from having to work with electronic tools?
What has happened to the conventional lecture?
For three days last week, speakers from all over North America talked
about these and other questions at a conference sponsored by McGraw-Hill
and Ryerson publishers.
Most panellists concurred on the reasons that technology will eventually
make teaching more effective. First, it transcends physical boundaries,
making information and university education more accessible.
Web-based technology is the most economical and egalitarian means
of disseminating information, said panellist Ron Owston, of York
University. Online learning will become the norm. There will
be a large increase in population, and institutions will be creating online
courses instead of building new facilities. Its the natural
way of dealing with an increase in population.
The Web can also be a useful tool for professors who seek immediate feedback
from their students. Many professors at Concordia have already developed
a Web page that allows them to post important notices and class notes
on a virtual billboard, and to answer students questions.
But technology does come with strings attached. Among other things, it
can trap professors in an information glut, and force them to respond
to hundreds of e-mails every day.
I cant keep up with all the e-mails I get from students,
complained Guy Allen, of the University of Toronto. Technology is
outpacing our capacity to deal with it.
Undeniably, technology is carrying large pedagogical implications. Among
other things, experts predict the role of professors will change, as they
will be asked to act as facilitators or moderators of online discussion
Teachers will have to guide their students; otherwise they will
be lost in cyberspace, said Susanne Lajoie, of McGill University.
I think the power of technology is that we can use students
knowledge and build on that.
The role of students will also change, as they will be encouraged to be
more pro-active in their studies and put theoretical concepts into practice.
We need to use these new tools to promote education, to expand memory
and problem-solving abilities, Lajoie said. Its great
that we can now simulate [hospital] environments and let the students
practice in standardized and safe ways.
Information technology such as the Internet will allow professors to bring
daily updates to their research and tweak their course outline to benefit
students, said Ginny Moffat, vice-president of the Higher Education Division,
McGraw-Hill Ryerson publishers.
Its all about currency, daily updates and delivering the most
current data available to students. Its something that print cannot
do, Moffat said. E-books will eventually be cheaper than regular
books, and they will be dynamic because the authors will be adding new
content all the time.
Owston predicts that textbooks will soon disappear from higher education,
and quickly make way for e-books and palm pilots.
I cant tell my students to go buy $80 textbooks any more,
said Owston. I just cant do that to them.
But as we abandon our pens and paper and information is transferred onto
the Internet, we can expect to have to deal with important copyright issues,
Nothing will stop people from buying online courses in bulk, packaging
them and re-selling them at discount prices. Students would surely benefit
from having to pay less for a university diploma, but universities could
find themselves debating serious ownership issues, Owston said.
Sharing resources with institutions from all over the world is one thing,
but technology also threatens to undermine the efforts of individual universities
to create their own programs.
How do you
feel about the growing presence of new technology in university classrooms?
A few years ago, we created a Web site for our students, and we
try to communicate with them by e-mail. We hired a team of experts to
develop and increase the use of technology in classrooms. We also use
WebCT a lot. As David Foot said, its boom time for information technology
in education, but weve always seen technology as a supplement to
classroom instruction. After all, teaching has to be face-to-face. But
Im not sure how its going to continue.
Rama Bhat, Chair, Mechanical Engineering, Concordia
I like using technology in my class. That way, I can bring a lot
of information to my students. Together, we look at the Web pages of different
companies, and weve also created a chat room for students.
Joung Kim, Professor, Accounting, Concordia
I feel that as a student, I dont have the option of using
it or not. Sometimes I just feel like talking, and when I dont use
Powerpoint for my oral presentations, I get criticized or I lose marks.
I dont like using technology just for the sake of using it. Sometimes
I find it distracting. Im an auditory person, and Ive been
brought up to value face-to-face interactions.
Denise Blake, student, Educational Technology, Concordia
Im all for it! I use WebCT, and my class has a Web page with
a billboard, a chat room and my course outline. I feel it encourages students
to communicate with each other. But Im disappointed, because I think
they dont use it enough. New technology brings new perspectives
to teaching; it allows for new creativity and more feedback from the class.
And whats also great about it is that students cant get away
with telling me they didnt know about the assignment, since all
assignments are posted on the Web page.
Pierre Duchastel, Lecturer, Management, Concordia
I embrace technology because thats the way young people interact
among themselves. Professors have got to change because were still
delivering [education] the way we did 1,000 years ago. The new technologies
allow us to divide large classes into smaller electronic discussion groups,
so that students can learn from each other. The professor is only there
to guide students; they do most of the learning by themselves.
Pierre Vallée, Associate Director, Office of External
Graduate Programs, School of
Business and Administration, Dalhousie University
Technology has the ability to confuse and impress, and can give
a false sense of legitimacy to a presentation. When theres too much
visual stimulation and emphasis on the form rather than on the content,
I think the message is lost. I find that people use a lot of bells and
whistles, and its distracting. If I have a limited period of time
to do an assignment, Id rather spend it on research than on fiddling
Caroline Guay, student, Teaching English Second Language, Concordia