Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Information technology in higher eduction

Slides from a brief talk I gave to a meeting of IT administrators.


Rastus Odinga-Odinga said...

Can you give us some concrete examples of the use of technology in teaching? Data point: what I find with the most recent crops of [mathematics and physics] undergraduates is that, apart from those who are focusing on computer science, the vast majority of them have zero interest in anything that looks like coding or involves learning a language. They have grown up in an environment in which computers do not require anything like that. So for example they want to be able to type in dy/dx and expect the computer to understand that. So they get along with MAPLE ok, but detest MATLAB.

BobSykes said...

The percentage of engineers and scientists who need to code in their work is very small. Even Maple, Mathematica and MATLAB are overkill. Excel suffices. This is true even for some very complicated problems like large building design. There are many commercial programs for those problems, and engineers and scientists generally just input the data.

When I was being trained in the 1960's, engineers were taught FORTRAN, and we used it for rather simple problems because there were no commercial packages or spreadsheets. Nowadays, engineers are generally taught some version of C, although FORTRAN and BASIC still persist. But very few of them will ever code.

PS. The computing engine for MATLAB is in the public domain. At one time the software companies would sell you a DOS version with a command line interface for about $10. I don't know if it's still available, but it was useful for smallish matrices, say 10x10 tops.

Josh said...

It seems to me that IT has made learning easier, but are the people who need the extra help learning capable of using their hard-gained knowledge? I don't think so. Knowing something is one thing, but using it is another.

I wonder how many kids would have failed maths were it not for Khan Academy? A lot. I read somewhere that more than 50% of kids can't learn from a textbook.

Peter Connor said...

My experience as a teacher is that there is a large gap between lectures or textbooks and actual practical absorption of key material.

Evelyn said...

There are at least three different kinds of IT in higher education:
university administration (payroll, admissions, email, website, etc.)
general undergraduate student/faculty computer support (word processing, statistics, basic engineering software, etc.)
research (distributed computing, big data, etc.)

While there may be overlap, each of these has different IT requirements. Often people making the decision about Enterprise Software purchases do not use the software in their jobs.

David Coughlin said...

I can only respond to this that if Excel is sufficient, then most engineers aren't trying very hard.

Blog Archive