I’m happy to share this piece written by a former student, Shannon Quirk. Shannon is a first-year student at Assumption College. She recently sent me an email telling me how different the use of technology is at the college level, so I asked her to write a post to share with you!
As we continue to develop our BYOD program at our school, I hope that Shannon’s voice can be heard loud and clear. It’s one thing to provide resources for our students, but completely another to promote a culture of self-reliance within our student body. Check it out below, and thanks Shannon!
Starting college has been a challenging task for many students over the years as they are faced with many changes: moving away from home, making new friends, gaining more freedom, adjusting to a new learning environment, and the use of technology in their learning. Thankfully, in the 21st century students no longer need to include the incorporation of technology on the very long list of changes and challenges they face. Graduating from Wakefield Memorial High School in 2015, I was much more confident in my technological ability than any class from WMHS had previously been. Junior year of high school, I was part of the piloted BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program, and later was part of the first class at WMHS to incorporate technology everyday into the classroom. As with many new programs, at times there were challenges. Teachers and students struggled together to find a way to incorporate technology into the curriculum in a meaningful and effective way. However, by the time graduation came around, the teachers and students in my perspective had figured out the “new norm” in the walls of Wakefield Public Schools.
As I am half way through my first semester of college, I have taken some time to reflect how Wakefield’s incorporation of technology has prepared me for college. While walking around campus, you are constantly seeing technology everywhere. Whether it’s the cafeteria, library, student center, or the classroom, computers are everywhere. In high school, teachers would often say “take out your devices” in college that does not happen. If you want to take notes by hand then you can, and if you want to take out your computer to take notes, that is also welcome. Students in college have a lot more freedom when it comes to their use of technology. However, certain professors in college do have specific requests when it comes to papers. In Wakefield, teachers had students use Google Drive. In college, many professors request the use of Microsoft Word. It has been a little difficult getting used to the new formatting that this different app offers. I wish that prior to college I had some experience in many other applications, while still becoming experienced in Google Drive.
One major change I have experienced in college, is taking exams. When taking exams, students take out their laptops, access Blackboard (our schools online academic resource) and take the exam fully online. In high school, some of my teachers started to offer portions of exams online, however this was very minimum. Taking an exam online is different. Many of the strategies I used to use while taking an exam on paper, are no longer usable. There are new exam strategies for taking exams online that students should become aware with.
Technology is now a key element of undergraduate learning. It is important that students are comfortable and knowledgeable with technology. In high school, teachers were very understanding when students came in with paper copies because they could not figure out how to turn in their papers via turn it in or google Drive. In college, professors do not care if you had computer trouble, if the paper was due and you didn’t turn it in, then it is a zero, computer trouble or not. I personally believe that students at WMHS would benefit from the teachers being stricter on deadlines especially when technology is involved. It is the student’s responsibility to get their computer fixed prior to class, and their responsibility to ask for help outside of the classroom environment if they are having issues with their devices. In my experience at WMHS, I often received too much help when it came to using devices in class. Teachers provided step by step directions for turning in papers, logging onto Drive activities, researching articles online, ect. I wish that I had become a little more independent when it came to my use of technology. In college you are on your own, your professor is not going to help you with your computer or give you step by step directions when asking you to go online.
Lastly, one major change I have faced is the use of online textbooks. Prior to college, I had no experience with online texts. It is my understanding that online textbooks are very expensive, so it is understandable why public high schools are not using them. However, in college just about every class requires students to purchase an access code for an online text. I think that reading from a paper book, is very different from reading from online text. Taking notes is also different. I was not prepared for this big change, as I have always had paper texts throughout my education.
Overall, I believe Wakefield did prepare me for the use of technology in college. However, I do believe that Wakefield Public Schools can continue to improve their advances in technology to make students even more prepared. I am learning in college, that the professors like to stay up to date with all the new technological advances. It is important for Wakefield to stay ahead of technology, so students will be prepared to learn new technology as it advances.