Here’s an interesting fact: I spent the greater part of my senior year of high school designing and implementing an application for teachers to use to give their students multiple choice tests and easily view the results. It stored up to five results for each test and could send the results to each individual teacher, as well as allow the teacher to create and send new tests to their students. Now, it wasn’t advanced by any means, it had no cool graphics or particularly easy functionality. But what it did do was engage us five advanced computer students in computer programming, innovation, and interacting with what was then a new 1-1 iPad program.
I look back on my technological education fondly. I learned three programming languages over four years and discovered a new way to put both logic and creativity to use. You’re probably wondering what my point is in all of this. Well, it seems to me that with all of the effort being put into bringing more technology into classrooms there is a lesser amount of effort being put into technological training and making sure the technology is used to its fullest extent for the maximum benefit.
Plenty of kids know how to use a computer, or can figure out how to use a tablet when given time to play around with it. And that’s great! We live in a society which is becoming more and more dependent on technology and students ought to be prepared for going into the current world. My only concern is that few students learn the inner workings of the technologies they’re exposed to. It’s difficult, of course to teach computer programming to students below a certain age, but to gain a foundation in knowing the way our tablets, computers, and smart phones operate seems useful. Especially considering the number of careers that would become possible to attain and easier to achieve with learning this material before college.
Back to thinking in a new way, innovation is the key to success these days. Plenty of companies spend time and money copying each others products and services, but things that are new and unique pose a greater potential for success. Learning programming involves utilizing creativity to ensure the machine gives you the desired result in the end, and, employs logical thinking in the actual writing of code. Maybe I’m biased because of my experiences, but when I consider the way my horizons and mind have been broadened, I can’t help but advocate this.
Moving on – the implementation of technology so that maximum benefit is achieved. Many schools are bringing laptops and tablets into classrooms, increasing the accessibility of information for their students. And yet, many teachers lack the time or resources to fully utilize these technologies. The result is, well, fewer positive results. The possibilities with portable devices allow for multimedia learning, interactive lectures, and the potential for greater understanding with a mind-boggling amount of information at a students fingertips. But this can also go wrong if not used in the right way.
My own experience with tablets in the classroom was mainly observatory. I watched younger students playing various video games on tablets at lunchtime and in class, rather than using them to search terms they weren’t familiar with during lectures, or taking notes that could be emailed or later printed out, or even recording audio from lectures to be listened to for studying purposes. Essentially, it’s a lot of responsibility to have technology in the classroom, the potential for distraction is always there, but the potential benefits cannot be ignored either. These devices provide ways to learn for students with every learning style. It’s frankly incredible. But finding the right way to use them, working out the complexities and obstacles that come with attempting to integrate technology completely and successfully is understandably difficult.
I don’t have the answers for doing so, and there’s likely not one right answer. I suppose the only answer is to keep trying and to give it time. But, there’s my little spiel. What do you think about implementing technology in the classroom? Do you think it’s worth teaching what goes on behind the backlit screens?
For more on these subjects, check out TeachThought’s article on when using technology doesn’t go quite right.