Stephanie Hurter raised a very interesting question in her comment on a recent post here: How much do students drive/ influence the college educator’s use of technology in the classroom environment?
The answer to this question is, of course, unknown, but you can contribute to a more precise discussion of this issue–at least in the context of the history course–by participating in her oral history project.
My own answer, based entirely on anecdotal evidence gathered over the past five or six years of visiting history departments around the country and talking to lots and lots of people who teach history, is that it’s almost always a little of both. The best teachers try to meet their students where they live, by which I mean the teachers ask themselves how their students find and use information, then try to find ways to connect tried and true historical methodologies with their students’ use of technology. At the other end of the spectrum is a historian I know who tells his students that he will not accept any essays that include Internet sources.
Having said that, it is the case that many professors feel the need to “keep up” with their students’ use of technology, while feeling anxiety about the fact that their students seem to know so much more about the technology than their professors. What these professors forget is that while students may be very adept users of technology, that’s not the same thing as adept learners with technology.
Of course, the reality is that, with the exception of PowerPoint (perhaps the worst use of technology in the classroom), a minority of historians use technology in the classroom. I’m willing to bet that few students say to themselves, or each other, “Gee, I wish my professor would show us more PowerPoint slides.” Instead, what they want (at least based on my surveys students over the years) is more challenges and more learning. How and whether technology is included is not the issue. Learning is.