Where does educational technology fit in the modern world? Will classrooms adapt, or will they remain the same? Let’s take a look at the bigger picture:
The world has changed. Technology is slowly taking over all our activities, and our educational system must keep up.
Soon, we’ll be left to leisure in the sun, while technology handles most chores. Mom and dad are using a computer at work. A smartphone on the road from work. A smart-TV at home. And then there are all those little intelligent home appliances: the smart-fridge, the smart-washing machine, or the smart-microwave oven.
Every single piece of technology around us that was once analogical has gone through the digital revolution. And it’s now becoming smart.
But are we evolving along with it? That’s a question for the social analysts to answer. Yet, it does seem that the world is slowly crawling up a hill made of motherboards, keyboards, screens, and tech devices in general. In the increasingly technologized world of 2015, even your grandma has an iPhone. It’s a fact, and for some, it’s hard to deal with. It’s pretty hard to ignore the tens of Candy Crush Saga invitations you get from her, isn’t it?
As the World Turns, Progress Requires Educational Technology
Education is the major part of American society, and of the world in general. You cannot have progress without proper education. And today, this education needs to deal with all this technology appearing everywhere around us. Yes, in the past, tech and education have pretty much gone hand in hand, but today’s technology is evolving at such a rate that it’s really hard for teachers to keep up.
The main problem is that in the past, technology was mainly used in school by teachers in very scientific fields, such as physics, math, chemistry, or, surprise, IT. The teachers that are in these fields already had a mind open to new technologies. But today, technology permeates even the most basic levels of K-12 school, such as English, or the Arts, or standard language training.
How does education technology fit in school? Besides the specialized pieces of tech for different fields of study, today we’re capable of using iPads, tablets, or iPhones, Macs, and PCs in just about any classrooms of schools that have a progressive view towards tech.
So what is the issue here? Teachers are losing the battle with tech. In the past, simple school rooms adopted a TV, then they added a VCR, then a computer, maybe even two computers. Some classrooms even added a computer for every kid. This soon turned out to be counterproductive, and the computers have been put under restrictions, or removed.
Now, schools are beginning to give tablets to all the kids studying there. This is a great idea that makes sure that even those with a more modest income receive one, are subsequently exposed to tech and develop their IT skills. However, those teachers that are becoming older are slowly being left behind by the advancements in tech. Even though the school provides their classes and their kids with the physical resources necessary, they refuse to use them to their full potential. This is mainly because they can’t understand them, or see technology as something morally degrading.
The Times, They are A-Changing
We’ve all seen elderly people who are skeptical, or even openly criticize technology. This happens because they see the dangers in overusing it. They look at young people on the bus, or on the metro, and see how their eyes are ever more constantly glued to the screens of their phones. And they may be right. But this point of view blinds them to the fact that technology needs to become a common tool for the kids in our schools. As a plus, it has been demonstrated that the more they begin using it, the more they will have moments when they step away from it.
It’s only logical to think that if a kid uses his iPad all day at school for school-related purposes, when he’s going to go home, the iPad will be one of the last things he or she turns to. Maybe this will make kids eventually pick up a paperback, or go out. To this extent, it is our duty to make our teachers use technology in their lessons.
Of course, like in all things, too much is not good – that’s why it’s called too much. This can only be determined by those using it, and can be regulated at a school level.
If you’re a teacher or a parent, or both, and you want to learn more about using educational technology in the classroom, be sure to check out our first article in this series. There, we talk about the advantages and disadvantages of a technologically assisted way of teaching.
How to Use Educational Technology
It’s simple enough. Kids in our schools receive iPads, or other mobile devices. Teachers get one too, and then they begin using their most basic of apps in order to enhance their lessons. It’s easy to see why some of these teachers may turn out to be skeptical to the actual utility of tablets.
If you’re a teacher and you use your tablet to show the kids a few pictures, write some notes on it, or as a memory stick, you’re not making full use of its capabilities. iPads aren’t renowned because they can display images, or play music, or show videos and take notes. This is something any PC could do very well.
The real treasure behind these Apple devices is their versatility. Within the Apple App Store, there lies an incredible amount of apps designed specifically for use in the classroom (the same goes for Android tablet). Yet, many teachers don’t know how, what, or when to use one.
You might want to have a look at our article about free technology for teachers. There, we’ve selected a nice set of apps that are amazing to use in the classroom. And what’s more, they’re completely free, for you, as well as for your pupils. These amazing tools let you organize your class, keep track of their activity, write on the tablet in a completely new and interactive way, as well as share files, talk to parents in a less invasive way, and do more amazing things that couldn’t have been possible before the digital revolution.
More Practical Uses of Educational Technologies
Besides the usual uses of technology in the classroom, of which we have talked about up until now, there are the more specialized ones. Some pieces of tech are best used in situations relating to different school disciplines. Others are made to be helpful for kids with special needs in school.
When children are in the early stages of their development, they are usually undecided about what they want to pursue in life. Many exhibit that innocent curiosity, and the bright eyes that indicate the thirst for knowledge. To help guide these kids towards a specialization, teachers have long had their own secret magical methods.
Now, science teachers, be it physics, chemistry, math, or any other, have tech to thank for some of their future bright minds.
In the past, science fairs have captivated the interest of many kids. Science for kids is one of the all-time headaches of teachers. How do you make it appeal to the young ones? As science fairs become all the more dull, with everyone just turning up with baking soda and vinegar volcanoes, you, as a teacher, really have a chance to shine.
Challenge the kids in your class to come up with interesting ideas for the science fair. Give them a few websites where they might find cool and exciting experiments. You can check out our own article on making science fun for kids, or you can conduct your own research.
If kids seem totally uninterested in class, find out what their interests are (which might be extremely difficult). To do this, it’s a no-brainer now that you can turn to Facebook. Of course, be discrete and do not nag the student on the social network. Instead, look at what he has liked. There’s bound to be some science there. If even a single kid in your class becomes really interested in what you have to say, you can pat yourself on the back. You did a great job!
Hand in hand with educational technology comes instructional technology.
We have an article on how they can work together. Instructional technology can be used for experiments in the chemistry lab, or in the biology lab, or in the physics lab.
Imagine putting up a material in your Dropbox that kids can access while in class doing an experiment. Pretty cool! Now you don’t have to repeat every part of the instructions all over again. Instructional technology can even be used for creative writing.
Here’s a hypothetical situation: a student has to write an essay. He has no idea how to go about it, and all his materials are in the back of the class. He can check out the instructional article that you’ve left him in the shared folder, and will now be able to finish his assignment. The same goes for almost all disciplines.
When we were kids, if we forgot how to solve a complicated math equation we had no other choice than to turn up with an unfinished homework. Today, math teachers can leave just about every piece of theory needed for the homework in the class Dropbox folder.
Educational software can really come in handy here. Tools like Microsoft Office have become invaluable. Oftentimes we are more reliant on a little white and blue window on or laptop screens that we are on the classic pen and paper.
Word has become a universal tool for writing anything. Whether you write an essay, your homework, or a novel, there is no better tool for the job – and kids must become accustomed to this. There is absolutely no use for them to continue to write their English homework by hand, after a certain point.
Of course, kids need to know how to write by hand. But after that is mastered and in their innocent minds, they can slowly do away with that system of writing, in favor of the much more comfortable keyboard.
Training their writing speed early on can really help those who want to turn towards philology. If they begin writing in Word constantly only in college, they’re going to have a hard time keeping up.
You can check out our article on educational software pieces that have become standards for most K-12 schools over here.
Assistive Technology in the Classroom
Educational software has one last but incredibly important part nowadays. In the past, kids with disabilities had to go to special schools. Now, there’s less and less need for that. With the constantly developing tech, they can keep up with their colleagues without any problem.
If a blind person goes to school now, he or she is set to receive all the accommodations needed to learn as quickly and as correctly as everyone else. This usually means a laptop which reads out loud all the text on its screen in an intelligent way. Many such devices now exist, and the software has also evolved considerably. And if they have to read a book, they can listen to it, as audiobooks are now available for most canonical literature.
Assistive technology has amazing potential.
More and more iOS and Android apps are being launched every year to help those suffering from blindness, deafness, dyslexia, ADHD, or any other disorder, no matter how severe.
In our article about free technology for teachers, we’ve mentioned an app that helps dyslexic kids cope with their problems.
All in all, we see that technology and education can go hand in hand. Educational technology is becoming a part of our society, and it’s becoming a part of our everyday lives. The only natural thing for teachers to do is to embrace it.
Every new advancement is subject to criticism. But as long as that criticism is constructive, and does not end up restricting our development of new tech, we’re clearly on the right track.