Friday, August 21, 2009

Technology as an Educational Need

There's no doubt that the latest generation of students has grown up with technology, understands it, and makes very good use of it. But I had never before stopped to think that technology has become an educational need.

The notion came up while I was reading a Communications of the ACM article about a task force for mobile learning. A member of the task force has this to say:
"Today, students are coming to campus with certain expectations. They are dealing with technology on a daily basis — they don't even refer to it as 'technology.' It is just a way of life," noted Kreider. "To prepare for their educational needs, we at WIU need to become more equipped with and conversant in technology, as well as how we apply that to the education of our students, dissemination of content — all of these things that students are expecting today," he added.
Once this connection was made in my head, I started to realize how true it is. Looking back at my high school years, which were (mostly) in the nineties, I craved more technology to use in school. Although I actually never learned to program until I started my computer science degree, I was always a very proficient user of software. The only problem was that I didn't have a whole lot of opportunities to enhance my learning with computers and other cool technology. I remember the computer labs having pretty old equipment with little interesting software, for example.

I've covered a few topics on this blog that would have been really great to use during my own public education, and there are so many more awesome ways to incorporate technology in both obvious ways and not! Here are some examples:
  • Using Google Apps to collaborate with classmates on projects
  • Building virtual worlds could make many otherwise dull subjects interesting, especially in elementary school
  • Game Maker, Alice, Kodu, Scratch... all ways to introduce younger students to logical thinking (and programming, while you're at it)
  • Siftables could really help students tangibly manipulate and understand everything from algebra to organic chemistry (though many of these applications are undeveloped for this particular technology)
  • Blogging can be used by students, but more importantly, by teachers and teaching assistants, who can supplement what is learned in the classroom with links to videos, answers to FAQ's, etc
  • In university, virtual office hours would help students who can't (or won't) see the TA in person get help
  • Augmented reality might provide an inexpensive way of making learning more hands-on
Can you think of more? How has technology been a "need" in your education?


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