Recently in one of my classes, we've been talking about the introduction of technology in the classroom. In their book titled Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America (2009), Allan Collins and Richard Halverson give an insightful overview of how education is changing and also give space to arguments from both enthusiasts and skeptics about technology. A main idea to take away from this latter discussion by Collins and Halverson is that an implementation of technology can, on the one hand, offer benefits for students to learn; and, on the other, it can pose challenges that are not easy to address. It is commonly believed that technology is an enhancement to education; its introduction serves as an aid for students to learn more effectively and to engage more. But, in what ways? Let me share a few insights on how technology can strengthen the way people learn.
Let's start with the availability of information, tools, and sources we have when we need to learn something. This is Just in Time Learning, the ability to access knowledge when we need it in order to perform a task. You can think of sophisticated structures such as MOOCs, Khan Academy, Codecademy, and many more. Or, you can think of simpler and more day-to-day tools like Google or YouTube. Now, think of how individualized this process is and how our online activity can feed information that can be tailored to our interests and common searches (think of the ads you get on Facebook, don't they relate to content on pages you like?). Some like Jeffrey Selingo in his article The New Lifelong Learners understand this as an emerging form of education, one that doesn't require much money, loans, or even time to apply.
Now let's move to the classroom. In thinking of more tangible tools and how these are utilized in that setting, let's watch this short video and see how these kids deal with technology on a daily basis.
In our class discussion, one student stated: "technology keeps students engaged, these tools can help them develop skills. As long as they're focused, let's keep using it." Yet, one common challenge is to think of how technology is being implemented and the purpose behind it; something I want to call purposeful implementation. Are educators investing in technology just to keep students active and capture their attention? Having intentionality is key when utilizing technology in the classroom. A good example can be the tool Social Express. This is a simulation software that helps kids develop social skills. They don't necessarily need to experience an awkward moment in order to learn how they respond to it. While some can argue that this may not be particularly feasible for every child, it may very well be so for autistic children, for instance, who can find in this virtual interaction a perfect fit to develop those skills.
The implementation of technology goes hand in hand with a redefinition of the concept of "community." Collins and Halverson (2009) explain that there is a shift in what we commonly understand as a community. It's no only a group of people that are physically in the same place, but rather a group of people that can connect in a virtual community where they can interact and engage in an activity, tools like Social Express, for example. For teachers, Edmodo serves as a community for teachers to interact with students, but more importantly, for students to interact with their classmates.
Adam Bellow, Outstanding Young Educator of the Year (ISTE 2011), says that technology integration: "is really using whatever resources you have to the best of your abilities." Aligning specific goals in mind such as improving students' understanding in science courses or assessing their reading comprehension with specific tools, devices, or apps will make the implementation process much more effective. In the video below, for instance, students create digital storytelling projects to showcase their creativity while improving their oral communication skills. Examples like this one where the technology is clearly aligned with the goal of the teacher offer a great insight for this implementation. And to end with Adam Bellow's words: "if you can do this lesson without technology, that's great; but if you can do it better with technology, then that's why you use it." Watch the video below.
Do you have any ideas or comments? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Collins, A., & Halverson, R. (2009). Rethinking education in the age of technology: The digital revolution and schooling in America. New York: Teachers College.
I am an ePortfolio instructor working in New York City. I am also a student in the MA program in educational psychology at Hunter College. In my current position, I instruct students how to develop and build their ePortfolio to showcase their academic skills. I also collaborate in professional development seminars with faculty members from various departments on building the curriculum to teach the first year seminar experience. Read more about me.