Feb 24, 2010

University of Denver Spoof of ‘The Office’ Illustrates the Challenges of Teaching with Technology

“These are floppy disks,” explains Michael, the class instructor, as he hands out brightly-colored plastic disks. “All my class notes are on here.” Really? Come on. That's 1980's style.

If you’ve been on a campus lately, you know “smart” classrooms are all the rage. Colleges (and some high schools) are investing extreme amounts of money turning old fashioned lecture halls into technological theme parks designed to engage students in the very hard work of being an undergraduate.

But it takes more than equipment to connect with today’s tech-savvy students many of whom are light years ahead of their teachers when it comes to technology. And colleges are beginning to understand that the transition from chalk to the web requires “renovating” the professor as well as the classroom.

To illustrate the challenges of teaching with technology, students at the University of Denver created a video spoof of “The Office” using the mocumentary format familiar to fans of the show. Students wrote the script, directed, acted, and shot and edited the video.

Their message was based on a survey of classroom technology use at the university which concluded that while many students may wish for more technology, others consider it a distraction. And just because the technology is available, doesn’t mean professors know how to use it.

“The professors who saw [the video] recognized some truth in it and were able to laugh,” said Professor Lynn Schofield Clark, who teaches the course for which the video was an assignment. “We all have those moments.”

By the way, the University of Denver just announced a 2.98% tuition increase for next year--the smallest in years. By judiciously trimming expenses, DU was able to keep costs under control and avoid burdening students with a double-digit tuition hike.

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