People typically have a love-hate relationship with new technology: we love our own and hate others’. This dynamic often carries over to the classroom. Students love their devices, but it’s difficult to build a rich learning community with a group of students who are staring at their phones before class, and during class if faculty don’t vigilantly police their students’ behavior.
Rather than uniformly policing their students, Drexel’s Criminal Justice Program is taking a different tact by using technology to expand and deepen the way students communicate, both with their faculty and with each other. Rather than subscribing to the trope that technology has trained this generation of college students to think in 140 character text bites, the Criminal Justice Program is using it to prepare thoughtful, reflective students who will be able to transfer their learning to the workplace and a broad range of graduate school programs.
The Criminal Justice Program is not alone in their embrace of communication technology. In a video titled “A Vision of Students Today,” students at Kansas State University describe their experiences with technology both in and out of the classroom. Toward the end of the video, one technological advancement is lavishly praised, “The inventor of [this] system deserves to be ranked among the best contributors to learning and science, if not among the greatest benefactors of mankind.” This quote is from Josiah F. Blumstead who, writing in 1841, goes on to say, “Let every town put in each of its school-houses a good black-board, and a good teacher, ‘who can use it;’ and the effect will be about the same as doubling the number of teachers and school hours.“1
The faculty of the Criminal Justice Program are choosing to utilize this generation’s wave of technology just as the teaching profession embraced the blackboard years ago. In an initiative spearheaded by Cyndi Rickards, students use iPads to capture learning artifacts, whether they be audio, image, video, or text. Linking the artifacts to their ePortfolios, students reflect on what they learned and associate that experience with relevant Drexel Student Learning Priorities [DSLP]. By letting the students choose which is associated with a learning experience, students are encouraged to take ownership of their education. In facilitated monthly group discussions, students share what they’ve been learning and benefit from others’ perspectives.
Promoting thoughtful, reflection in his students is a major part of Program Director Robert Kane’s vision for the program. He has plans to grow the Criminal Justice Program to include but also expand upon the traditional elements of police, courts, and corrections. He believes the program has the capacity to graduate students who are well grounded in theory but who also have more skills the economy values, including the ability to conduct and evaluate research and engage in analytical decision making.
Kane believes Drexel’s strengths in computing, information science and technology along with our commitment to community engagement while having a global footprint make this the ideal institution to create a new Criminology and Justices Studies Program that redefines the preparation of criminal justice professionals and expands the professional roles for which they are suited. He sees potential in partnerships with the College of Computing and Informatics to create a justice informatics curriculum. He also envisions a justice and community leadership track in which students will learn how to do advocacy, non-profit, policy and lobbying work.
A reimagined curriculum and the embrace of communication technology work together to support the Criminal Justice Program’s commitment to educate students who have access to all the resources, information and opportunities they need to take charge of their education and define their own career paths.