Sunday, January 17, 2010

Quality Education: Using Technology

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the http://schoolfinder.globalscholar.com/blog/



Quality
Education: Using Technology


June
2, 2008 – 6:14 am by
Brendan



Today when you mention technology in the classroom people immediately start thinking
about computers and the Internet, or graphing calculators in
Mathematics.



I’m more of an old school guy. (I’m not really old I just feel old.) When I talk about
technology in the classroom I can be talking from pencils and paper
to digital displays. Remember it was less than 100 years ago when
most school education was done with chalk and slate in a one room
school house. (interestingly enough these are still pretty popular
tools)



For me technology in the classroom is any tool used to enhance learning, usually through
communication or display. So technology could be pencil, paper,
chalkboards, projectors, movies, video streaming, email, touch
screens, graphing calculators, etc. Technology are the tools we use
to organize lessons, present information, record notes, display
product, or communicate with each other.



As a student teacher my students worked on a project where they recorded data on how fast
water warmed in the sun and shade around our school. We, along with
several schools around the world, then uploaded the data to a school
in New Jersey. They put the data in a spreadsheet and returned it to
us. Each school and class then wrote their own interpretation of the
data and shared with the rest of the participants. Because there were
no schools in the Southern Hemisphere one of my students emailed an
uncle in South America. He also preformed the experiment and shared
his data.



What did the experiment show? That the closer you are to the equator the more
intense the effects of the Sun along with a few other things. The
point is we used computers and the Internet to communicate with
people from around the world to share results. Could this exact thing
have been done 50 years ago? Absolutely, but technology made it
easier and faster.



It was not too long ago when many people thought that movies in the classroom would
replace teachers. Students could watch TV all day and learn
everything they needed to learn. This idea was debunked even before
researchers started claiming that education required two-way
communication, mostly because the students took the opportunity to go
to sleep.



Even more recent there was, and often still is, a big push to pour technology in the
form of computers and high speed Internet access into schools in the
hopes of fixing them. This is a lot more expensive than a few reel to
reel movies and just about as effective.



Without educators who are willing and able to use this equipment it is completely
useless. Hand me a computer in my classroom and chances are I’ll
use it for record keeping and research. I probably won’t have the
students use it very often, mostly because it is difficult to get 20
students to use one computer. If I have been a teacher for 40 years
and have a system for keeping records, a suite of lesson plans for
all occasions, and I am unfamiliar with computers, chances are I
won’t use a computer in the classroom. However I might put some
games on it and allow students to use it for a reward.



On the other hand give me graphing calculators for every student and I can transform
8th grade math from the tedious boredom of calculating tables and
plotting individual points into a discussion of classes of equations,
recognition of the properties of linear and nonlinear equations, the
effects of constants on equations and an entire host of other topics.
It is the difference between doing the math and understanding the
math. I will admit some schools don’t put enough emphasis on doing
the math, but this is not the fault of the technology. Technology is
only the tool.



This may be a shameless plug for Global
Scholar
, but I like the way they use technology. It isn’t about getting the
best most expensive piece of equipment into the school, it is about
creating a tool that is useful to educators and
students.
What global Scholar is doing is taking the power of technology and
allowing educators to access it using the thought process of
educators.



Educator think in terms of: This lesson will teach this topic or skill. This quiz will
asses this lesson or skill. This activity will be the building block
for understanding this concept. This tool will illustrate this
concept. This thing will help students make the connection between
these two ideas. This student learns best using this method of
delivery. For technology to be useful the use of technology has to be
couched in these kind of terms.



If the average person were given a load of wood and nails and told this was the
biggest and best house they will ever see, will it be of any use? If
technology isn’t ready for education then it wont be used in
education. When technology is prepared for the educator and ready for
use by anyone with basic computer skills it will be used and it will
change education for the better.





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