Does your professor still use an overhead projector?

Christen Palange Published 11 May 2016

3 Reasons Schools Are Technologically Stuck

Technology is changing every day and sometimes it’s difficult to keep up. As a student, I feel like I’m in this limbo between the future and 2003. If you know teachers who still use an overhead projector and marker, then you know what I am talking about. One of my favorite professors does this, and while I learn just as much using this method, it feels strange. In some classes, we watch documentaries on the professor’s Netflix account, and in other classes we copy notes from the projector. The contrast is extraordinary. I’ve recognized a few reasons why this conflict exists:

Teachers Don’t Understand Technology

Not all professors grew up with technology the way we did. This explains why some professors don’t upload grades online. While it’s super frustrating because I am impatient and want to know my grade, I realize that not all teachers are comfortable with technology. Honestly, pretty soon my generation feel just as behind, so I shouldn’t complain.


We have a Smart Board in our library that can connect right to our smartphone and group study rooms with collaboration systems to let us share screens from our laptops to TVs. We also still have a computer lab (which I actually didn’t know until about a month ago). Our projectors have completely-touchscreen remotes. However, there are still the overhead projectors for those professors who choose to use those.

Some instructors allow students to submit assignments through Blackboard/ Canvas. Other teachers use the LMS for discussion boards, but prefer us to email our papers to them, and they email the papers back with grades and comments. All of this technology surrounding us, and we use it sparingly.

Instructors Don’t See How Technology Fits In Their Class

I’ve had a class that used Blackboard software for video presence. Instead of a discussion in the classroom, we had a video discussion from whatever location we chose. The reactions were mixed, but everyone agreed it was a little clumsy. Some students had to remain at school anyway to participate as their houses did not have reliable Internet access

However, some classes, especially math, have trouble finding a place for technology. Most will lecture and use a whiteboard. Other classes still feature a professor lecturing in the front of the room with no use of a whiteboard or PowerPoint.

It’s A Distraction

Have you ever seen someone snapchatting during class? It’s distracting. Sometimes they even take video of the professor lecturing and send it to a friend with the caption “boring.”

These students who spend the lecture on their phone or laptop (not taking notes) are also typically the ones who complain we never covered this in class! Is it frustrating for the professor? Probably. But it’s also the student’s responsibility to care enough about their school work and not get distracted by technology.

Get the latest stories sent straight to your inbox!

Sometimes I send a text during class; often it’s to the person sitting next to me. I realize it’s not a good decision and I have no argument defending myself.It’s a terrible habit, but I occasionally get bored and glance at my phone. I tell myself it’s just to check the time, but really, I want to know if I got a text. If there’s a text, I read it and… you know the rest.

However, you know what class is the exception? Marketing. You may assume this is the case because the professor is so engaging I’m never tempted to check my phone, but the class is at 6 pm on Thursday so that’s not even possible. It actually has more to do with the policy of the professor.

On the first day of class, he told us if we were caught using a cell phone, we would be dismissed and not invited back, therefore failing. This same policy is in place for laptops used for anything other than taking notes. He has actually checked student’s laptops throughout the semester to ensure we follow this. No one has tested him so far. I should also tell you that this is a mandatory class for business majors and he is the only professor who teaches this, so if we do fail, we have to retake it with him next semester. That would be awkward.

In general though, most professors don’t say anything about using cell phones in class. Now that is probably because the student handbook says we are not to use cell phones OR laptops in class under any circumstance. But in the majority of my classes, we are allowed to use our phones and laptops, despite it being against university policy.

It’s not just a distraction to students, it can be a problem for professors too. I was recently in the middle of a class when a student sitting in the lecture emailed the professor to tell him he was leaving early (super late notice, but hey it’s college). It would not have been as much of a distraction, but the professor has an Apple Watch, so he got the email as he was lecturing. Because he was thrown off by the email from someone in the class he stopped the lecture and said, “Did you just e-mail me? Why didn’t you raise your hand and ask me?” The student explained he didn’t want to interrupt class to say he was leaving early, but it interrupted class anyway. This professor will stop every once in a while and look at his watch. Sometimes it’s a phone call, other times it’s a text. He almost never takes the call or answers the text, but it still distracts him for a few seconds.

So we use technology, but not in every class and not always. As a student, sometimes it feels like 2003 and sometimes it feels like 2030.

Related Higher Education Stories