As congress continues to cut support for schools, more local administrations are turning to the use of technology in education. Replacing teachers with software has caused quite a stir. While it may be cheaper, concerns about the impact such methods may have on the expected and necessary standards of learning lingers in dispute.
The proponents of moving forward into the technological age stress the enrichment that such learning methods could produce for the students. The access to a comprehensive education for all students, ability to interact and understand the nature of a global environment and the opportunity to study scientific subjects not available in a local setting top the list of their arguments. The International Society for Technology in Education is one group formed in 2009 that has been at the forefront of pushing for incorporation of these teaching methods.
Those who challenge the use of technology in education, are uncomfortable with the dangers vociferously exploited by the talking heads in some of the media. Are these dangers erroneous? Of course not. However, in the context of an educational environment, they are vastly overstated. There are other concerns that may be more legitimate.
Examining Opposition to Technology Education
As previously stated, there are people who are opposed to including technology as a tool in educating students. The primary concerns are couched in terms of moving too fast usually including inadequate evidence of success.
- Limited research has been completed to support values of technology as education
- Studies done on infant learning has shown negative success
- Teachers lacking technological skills feel incompetent or ineffective to assist students
- Teachers are uncertain about methods of integrating lesson plans using new tools
- Social fear of a global world
Because the technology is moving faster than standard research techniques are able to measure for results, studies are limited by timely evaluations. The one study repeatedly cited is that done on infants using programs such as Baby Einstein. This study showed that infants who were subjected to auditory and visual learning through technological means lacked comprehension of age appropriate words.
Teachers who graduated five or more years ago received training in how to use basic technological structures such as Office Suite, uploading and downloading from the web, using search parameters and posting to blogs. However, they were not taught means of incorporating the information gathered into their own lesson plans.
Some segments of society fear the basic concept of a global environment even though they already live in a global complex. This fear is commonly grounded in an anxiety of loss of national identity. When the social structures moved from tribal identity to national identities, this same anxiety was evident. Conversations relating to developing a new form of identity in a global world need to include suggestions for making the transition as smooth as possible.
There is one group of psychologist researchers who have expressed concern about the lack of focus displayed by students who use virtual devices as a chief source of communication, social interaction and for study tools. Their studies indicate that this shortened ability to focus could alter the way in which the human brain is wired to accept information. They cite results that show lower test scores when ineffective technology is employed.
The Positive Impact of Combining Technology and Education
Never taking our eyes off the ultimate goal of grooming students for their future, emerging technologies in education can accelerate closing the gap in preparedness.
- Ability to teach greater number of students remotely
- Increases cultural awareness and respect for diversity
- Access to classes not available in the local setting
- Availability to greater variety of teaching styles and strategies
Creating a level playing field for students in rural districts through the integration of technology and education opens doors to jobs of the future for greater numbers of citizens. Through the use of live stream classrooms, Skype or Blackboard systems, rural school districts are able to present classes that are cost prohibitive for their individual districts.
This allows students in smaller communities to compete for seats at Harvard, Yale or Temple that were previously closed to them. Classes in advanced mathematics, science and sociology can be offered when local budgets cannot afford them independently.
By increasing direct one-on-one contact with people in other cultures students discover that they agree with other nationalities more than they anticipated. With respect comes tolerance of other ways of life and students give validity and value to other cultural norms. In a global environment, diversity is inevitable and the ability to work cohesively in a cross-culture situation is mandatory.
The Importance of Technology Education for Tomorrow’s Environment
Regardless of hesitation to include technology in the educational programs, the march toward a future in a virtual environment continues. Students have access to the internet. If they are not online at home, they are connected by some other means.
Using modern resources as part of a deliberate educational scheme is important to the student’s futures for several reasons.
- Properly prepared for global work environment
- Developing skills underutilized by previous generations
- Learning modified methods of achieving teamwork results
- Discovering that other cultural modes are more similar than different
Today’s students do not share the same past as the adults who are teaching them. Their work environment in the future will depend on technological developments. The importance of technology in education is directly related to the preparedness goals set in a schools’ curriculum now.
Simply including devices such as computers, iPads, Smartphones and virtual reality games in a program is insufficient to raise the standards of learning. Teachers must relearn skills and seek out technology in education articles in order to be effective in guiding students toward appropriate resources.
Summary of Technology in Education
The goal of educating students is to prepare them to adequately compete in the world that they will enter into as adults. The world of technology is obviously one that will await them. It is necessary for schools to teach students the means to comprehend virtual data and differentiate between the types of information gathered.
Psychologists who fear that our brains will be rewired in an unfamiliar way may be correct. But, that does not necessarily mean that it is a negative outcome. Human processing ability has been altered many times as we moved from clobbering animals with sticks to raising animals for food. Attention spans may only need to be brief in order to complete tasks and multitasking necessary to hold a job.
If those who wish to cut school costs become the predominate voices, new methods of educating students must be implemented. Education plans with virtual classrooms where students logon from their homes may become inevitable. It is possible that in the next few years scheduled brick-and-mortar classes will replace daily attendance to monthly in-person appearances.