There are articles on education technology being published nearly every day, but here are a couple of good ones I thought I’d share.
Here are some thoughts regarding the second. I agree that we should be thinking hard about using technology to improve the flexibility and available pace of instruction. All student’s, from those with special needs to those with exceptional abilities (and they come together, sometimes) learn in their own way and at their own pace. Technology can provide instruction that is more flexible to these needs and to the pace that each student prefers.
One very interesting feature of most online instruction systems is the ability to back up and replay segments. If you’ve never drifted off in tangential thought during a meeting or tried to listen to a book on CD, you won’t understand this, but when you’re trying to learn something, the ability to rewind is a godsend. Students are still human. Here, technology can help improve knowledge transfer and retention.
A few challenges discussed are that we should be willing to give up teachers, let class sizes grow, and partner with commercial advertisers in exchange for the cost of this technology. These ideas often run counter to “conventional wisdom”, but if we are going to infuse new levels of efficiency (related to the raw number of students per teacher and the range of learning options available to students), we’re going to have to get serious about these subjects.
I am already on the record that we need to stop thinking of teachers as the “fountain of knowledge” at the front of the classroom (see the video in the first linked article above) and, where appropriate, I feel we should support “flipping the classroom” (letting learning new information with self-paced technology be the homework and letting exercises be the classwork under teacher guidance/support). Through technology, we can bring the best instructors and the best teaching practices to bear, tailored to each student’s skill needs and their pace and modes of learning.
Technology is also providing new ways to improve equity for students, a key factor in attacking the achievement gap. Standardized tests, teaching practices, and the cumulative effects of family income and education can reflect or introduce unintended biases in the classroom. Offering quality learning resources in multiple venues, forms, and modes can help to balance out or even overcome these biases, producing a student population that reflects diversity that is not based on race, gender, or socioeconomic status, but rather on the natural variations in our biological or cultural backgrounds — the good kinds of diversity that we celebrate and benefit from in our community.
Why should we not work hard to work together, discuss, find ways to do these things where it’s appropriate?
Obviously, we cannot teach all subjects on a computer, and indeed, I am of the belief that the subjects that cannot be taught through technology are the MOST valuable for human cultural progress. Computers may be rapidly taking over advancements in science, even manufacturing, but they still cannot paint a painting, write a novel, play the violin (yes, I’ve seen this), sing an aria, design a garden, or dance the ballet. However, there are good ideas coming out of the classroom, often brought by teachers who are embracing better techniques (some in our own district), and we need to work at breaking traditional rules in order to reach new levels of equity and student achievement.