With the rising popularity of Smartphone's and tablet PC's, it seems as if technology is not just a part of everyday life but every moment of every day. And we are beginning to discover that it's not just something that can be used to entertain or increase productivity, but something that can change and improve the ways that we learn. The field of education is catching on to these types of technological advances and more and more instructors are beginning to see it as less of a distraction and more of an advantage as students no longer have to be sitting in a computer lab to integrate the use of technology into the classroom experience.
Professors at universities across the country are beginning to utilize technology to handle mundane tasks like taking roll, measuring participation, and distributing pop quizzes. Hand-held wireless electronic devises, known as "student clickers," are being used as a part of an audience response system to actively engage students in the classroom. With these devices students can "sign in" for class, respond to lecture questions, alert professors that they have a question, and submit feedback on lessons. Clickers are even replacing the way that pop quizzes are administered, as multiple-choice quizzes can now be taken electronically simply by selecting the numbered button a student believes is associated with the correct answer. This type of technology helps to keep students academically accountable as now even those who sit in the back of the classroom are required to actively participate in class.
Technology is also changing who students are able to learn from. It is not uncommon for professors to invited "guest speakers" to come to class so that students can hear differing viewpoints and experiences, learn about current research, or obtain additional knowledge from an expert in a specialized field. Unfortunately, with many universities being located in "college towns" far away from metropolitan areas sometimes things like travel expenses and scheduling conflicts make it difficult to accommodate these types of guests. But recent technological advances in the area of video conferencing are making is possible for students to hear from experts from all around the world. Video conferencing uses telecommunication technologies to allow people from multiple locations to simultaneously interact through video and audio. Professors can now turn lecture halls into virtual learning environments through the use of large plasma displays, panoramic video cameras, document cameras, and conveniently placed microphones. High-definition video, high-quality audio, and high-speed Internet make it possible for both speaker and students to see and hear each other in clearly and instantly in real time at any time.