Technology is woven so fine into our lives that one wonders if the warp and weft of life has been replaced by the warp of life and the weft of technology. When I read about fruit flies being bred in virtual labs by college students, I wondered where good old lab work had gone. Reading about Flipped teaching models where online students meet in class once every two weeks, and seeing school backpacks designed with pockets for tablets, brought me face to face with the rapidity of technology changes in our lives.
History of TechnologyMillions of tablets were sold in 2014 to the K-12 market. This meant teachers had to rethink their teaching methodologies. The use of an electronic device does not mean better teaching; the device is used to make learning a more engaging and interactive activity. While the goal of using technology is manifold, for students it boils down to helping them improve the 4Cs - critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration.
We might not associate many things we know about education as technology, but technology has always affected education.
Changes we Notice
As we have watched technology morph in our lifetimes, it has brought about some interesting changes in education:
1. A large number of people can access educational/academic material stored in a central place. Libraries were exactly this, but today after digitization, material can be accessed from one's own geographic location. The ancient Bibliotheca Alexandria which was destroyed in a fire, is today home to a library and a vast Internet Archive.
2. Discussions can be held between students or between students and teachers, sitting in diverse locations, as on forums or message boards. These forumsare making way for a communication platform for K-12 students and teachers, which also encourage a feeling of community among its members.
3. Gaming is being actively encouraged in schools, and teachers are developing games to help with learning. Characters from movies are stepping into game environments, where kids can go through educational curriculum via games. The recently released Penguins of Madagascar has spawned TV Serials and penguin games, where kids learn mathematics as they play.
4. In developing countries, virtual classrooms are looked upon as a way ahead in scaling up education, where resources are scarce or expensive. Classes can be taught remotely, kids can watch science experiments in faraway labs or they can enjoy discussions with peers. Udemy and Coursera, newer kids on the block, are a little different. Udemy is a marketplace for online education, where experts can create and run online classes, while Coursera partners with top universities to offer their educational material to all.
5. One change which might rewrite the way our traditional classrooms have looked is the wind of gamification. Entire classrooms are being redesigned to engage kids in learning. GameDesk's new classrooms aim at reconfiguring traditional classrooms via gamification. When kids have to learn about the physics of flight, they don't just learn about it by reading or hearing about it in class, they clip on a set of wings and simulate flight. They literally learn by learning how to fly without crashing, by watching themselves on a large screen.
All these changes have to be accompanied by changes in the way teachers teach, use technology, do their grading, give homework and design class assignments. Teachers are being retrained to actively harness technology to keep the spark of learning alive in kids and themselves.To sum up, technology has always brought about change in education, but it is a double edged sword. It is for us to use it judiciously. The goal is help our kids comprehend the world and to actively contribute to its welfare, not to just put a check against Extensive use of technology in Education.