From kindergarten to graduate school, technology is changing the face of education. Today’s generation of students is exposed to technology at a very young age and, as a result, quickly becomes very comfortable with using technology.
The Common Core Standards Imitative issued in 2010 spells out several technical skills that a kindergartner should have. Computer workstations should be in the kindergarten classroom, and it is common for young students to play kindergarten-level math or reading games on the computer. Interactive whiteboards, tablet computers, large screen displays connected to a computer for conducting lessons are no longer unusual to see in a kindergarten classroom.
The old-fashioned chalkboard has given way to the smartboard. Touch screens allow groups of students to work on the same project and tacitly collaborate with others. In middle schools mobile phone apps are being used for taking pop quizzes that allow a teacher quickly to determine when the students are ready to move on to the next subject area. What would have taken a teacher a day to grade and return, can now be done in a matter of seconds and provide instant feedback to the teacher and student. http://www.technewsworld.com/story/79703.html
The use of tablet computers in schools has increased dramatically in recent years thanks to initiatives by companies like Apple who provide steep educational discounts to schools to purchase the tablets. One study in California’s Riverside school district found that students who used an interactive Algebra app on a tablet scored 19% higher than students who utilized a standard textbook did.
Marshall McLuhan said, “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.” This is certainly true of the digital revolution in education. Technology has resulted in an exponential growth of the availability of knowledge. A generation ago, research consisted of spending hours or days in a library to find the right books on your subject and then even more time to find the relevant sections of the text. Now, you can ask a specific question on Google and in nanoseconds have thousands of relevant responses to your inquiry. Technology has changed the expectations of students who are now less willing to grant a professor long period of their time if the knowledge can be obtained faster elsewhere.
The explosion in the availability of online education resources is a direct result of the digital classroom. Increasingly both schools and students are questioning the old models of classroom education. A traditional class at a university might be able to accommodate at most 50 students – online it can service 150,000 or more students at virtually no incremental cost per student. Students can learn where and when they want, and teachers can teach where and when they want. You can take an online course from Harvard while sitting in your living room in Boise, Idaho. It is logical, cost-effective, and efficient.
Online education has been around since the 1960’s when the University of Illinois linked computer terminals in a classroom to allow students access to international resources. However, these attempts were rare until near the end of the 20th Century, limited by the slow development of the internet and telecommunication resources. However, in the last ten years enrollment in online learning has been growing at a rate of 2% a year. By 2008, 25% of all students enrolled in post-secondary education in the U.S. were taking online courses. By 2009, that number had jumped to 44% and is projected to rise to 81% by 2014. Online education, once considered an experimental concept has now gained acceptance as an essential component of mainstream education.
Technology has enabled online education to move far away from the traditional lecture presentation. Animation, virtual reality, audio and video conferencing, online discussion forums, and social networking sites have made learning a more personalized and rich experience.
No longer tied to a physical classroom, education can be gained wherever is most convenient and at whatever time best suits the student. The best professors can now be available to anyone in the world that can access the internet. The potential of interactive learning across cultures has profound societal implications as we can share our distant learning with a fellow student in Bombay or Tokyo or Chicago. It seems inevitable that this interaction will lead to a greater understanding and appreciation of other cultures. http://www.cadmusjournal.org/node/337
There are some dissenters from the idea that online education is a positive. Some argue that the lack of direct personal interaction with the teacher is a limiting factor. Others feel that the online experience lacks the passion and excitement of the classroom. Some argue that the online revolution will deprive students of the “college experience” and may encourage isolation and prevent the student from becoming a “well-rounded” person. Grading of online courses is more problematic as it is more difficult to be certain that the student is the one that takes the test.
These concerns may have validity, but they are likely all surmountable. Technology is likely to solve many of these issues and others can be answered by the observation that the world of education is a changing one, and the old ways may not necessarily be the new way.