Friday, March 29, 2013

Why Technology in Education?

I would consider myself an optimist.  I am always looking for the silver lining in any situation, and try to go with the flow with most of the events of my life.  I also have a passion (and apparently an adeptness) towards technology. So it should come as no surprise, then, that I really think that technology should have more involvement in education.  Not only that, but I believe technology has the capability of making a stronger impact on students.

So why?  Education in America has been trucking along for over a hundred years, most of that time without technology.  Students spend too much time in front of TVs, gaming systems, and computers as it is, and we want to push this more?  And, if you are a master teacher, you can help kids achieve greatness by your ability alone.  These are some of the statements you may hear, and I believe these to be completely incorrect.

First of all, as the venerable will tell us, technology simply means:  "The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, esp. in industry."  Nothing about iPads, computers, laptops, BYOD, cell phones, or anything we typically associate with technology.  Technology is what we get when we learn new things and apply them.  It was probably very earth shattering when, instead of needing a vial and a feather quill, students could bring both of these in one device - the pen.  Math teachers, whether they love or hate them, have to admit that the invention of the calculator has allowed them expand their curriculum due to its capabilities and easy portability.  Spiral notebooks, the overhead projectors, blackboards, whiteboards, and globes are all pieces of technology that I highly doubt you will see lacking in schools.  So when a teacher says we don't need technology, I'll say you've been using it, albeit old technology, your entire career.  And if you look around - in industry, in homes, in stores, around the world - technology is advancing pretty darn fast.

Secondly - students spend too much time in front of screens, so they need a break.  Why do you think kids do that?  My opinion (and I'll gladly accept criticism) would be that they are engaged and enjoy it, so that is why they do it.  Students who play sports seem to be fine without the screen time - because they are doing something they enjoy.  So at school, we need to utilize this power of engagement for an educational purpose.  Simply plopping a kid in front of a computer and hoping they'll become geniuses isn't what I mean - it should be intentional - however I find it hard to believe we can help students achieve at levels we wish they would without utilizing the power of new technology.

This last point, and possibly the one that may be most out there - is that master teachers who are excellent educators don't need to use technology.  They've done it their way for a long time, and will continue doing so because it has worked.  First of all, reread my point about technology above.  Disregarding that, how do you know?  I'll admit that I don't know that a heavier use of technology is working, but you could say this for anything in education because the return on investment is so far down the road.  However, I can say this for sure - are we as a society moving towards more technology or less?  More pencils and paper and textbooks or tablets and real time collaboration online and ebooks or wikipedia?  So, as an education system, if we are to prepare students for their futures, and subsequently, the future of our world, we owe it to them to give them access and opportunity to utilize the power of these tools in a way that encourages learning.  Open their eyes to the world that is out there, and give them the skills to operate and critical think of how to use the newer technologies.  It is time that education in America decides it wants to be progressive instead of pretending that we are.  Our kids deserve that much.

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