If you have been following my blog you can see that I am passionate about integrating technology into the learning environment. I’m not the only one preaching the use of technology to prepare students for the world in which they will live and work. It takes just a search on the Internet to see that this is a popular idea which is gaining followers everyday. I wonder though is this just a new fad in the education world or is technology here to stay? What is all the hype about? How does technology improve the learning that happens in the classroom?
Personally I believe technology in the classroom is here to stay. If used in the proper way, technology integration helps students in ways that would be difficult or nearly impossible to duplicate in the traditional classroom. I have already discussed why I believe technology should be integrated into the classroom in my post, “Why InTECHgrate?” so I will not discuss this area here. However, it is important to mention the main reason we need to integrate, which is to prepare students for the ever changing world in which they will be living and working in. As stated in the video presentation “Did You Know?”
“the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004… We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist… Using technologies that haven’t been invented… In order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”
This task becomes the crux of a shift in the way students should be learning. It is no longer enough for schools to teach facts (albeit sometimes still necessary). Facts are easy enough to find on the Internet. With advances in wireless network technologies as well as devices which make use of these new networks, facts are a pocket away. If memorization of facts is no longer enough, then what? What are the skills that need to be taught?
While actively discovering within my own Personal Learning Network (PLN), I stumbled upon an essay Would You Hire Your Own Kids? 7 Skills Schools Should Be Teaching Them. This blog post discussed seven skills schools should be teaching students.
Critical Thinking and Problem-solving
Collaboration Across Networks and Leading By Influence
Agility and Adaptability
Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
Effective Oral and Written Communication
Accessing and Analyzing Information
Curiosity and Imagination
After reading this article it got me thinking about the best way for teachers to teach these skills. I was reminded of another blog post I read Three Trends That Define the Future of Teaching and Learning. In this post the author was discussing three trends in education that are changing the face of the classroom to a more dynamic learning community in order to help prepare students to enter the 21st century working environment. These trends included collaboration, tech-powered and blended.
Basically a learning environment that is more collaborative in nature will give the students the chance to practice skills such as being able to adapt and change, effectively communicate, think critically, solving problems and take initiative. How many of the seven skills do you see that can be taught just with this one trend? This article also mentioned the use of social networks as a way of collaboration. This also factors in the skill of being able to collaborate across networks.
The next trend is that technology is playing a larger role within the classroom. Technology helps to grab the students attention and makes the learning environment more authentic and connected to the students lives outside the classroom. Technology also helps with the first trend as it makes collaboration a more accessible. No longer does distance play a role in whether or not a group can get together to collaborate on an assigned project.
This final trend is one that resonated with me the most as it is basically making use of computers along with traditional teaching. As a tech facilitator, it is my role to assist homeroom teachers in the process of integrating the use of the schools available tech tools into the curriculum. When the technological tools are integrated properly teaching the skills mentioned above becomes easier.
Along with these trends, another shift that has been occurring in many classrooms, is what is known as “flip teaching” or “reverse teaching”. I read another post Teachers “Doing The Flip” To Help Students Become Learners, which talks about how the methods used to teach have been changing. Instead of the teacher being the “sage on the stage” they are becoming active participants in the learning process as a facilitator. Their role is now more of a guide, helping students become learners. This new way of teaching involves the use of technology to present information at home while the face to face time in the classroom is used for more productive activities. Basically this method involves the students watching the presentation part of a lecture or the old style “teaching” part, at home. The class time is then dedicated to the students actively taking part in problem solving, along side the teacher, who now has more time to spend with individual students.
To learn more about this new emerging trend you can read How the Flipped Classroom Is Radically Transforming Learning
When I read about this “flip teaching” it made me think of some of the emerging theories of learning which support this type of learning environment and the use of technology such as Situated Cognition, Distributed Cognition and Socially-Shared Cognition. It seems to me, while technology is a helpful tool in the process of learning, just using technology is not enough. The use of computers and other high tech tools will remain, just as the whiteboard has become a permanent fixture within the classroom but to make use of these tools properly, one must look at different ways to help students gain the new skills above.
While obviously, I am a proponent of making use of technology in the classroom, I however, also believe, that the technology assisted lesson must have a relative advantage. If the use of technology does nothing to improve the learning, then the question is why use it? The answer would thus be, “don’t”. Good teaching practice is just that, good teaching. Technology is is only useful if it improves the already good teaching.
When technology is used to assist students in the process of becoming life long learners, help them to plan, organize and create, it is acting as a means to gain the skills to solve problems that we don’t know are problems, in jobs that don’t yet exists.
So will it stay?
In my opinion, it most certainly will.