Optimizing Technology in Education
While technology can play a significant role in the classroom, it’s important to optimize it to help realize the outcome you are looking for. The use of technology should be carefully weighed against education goals.
In other words, screen usage may not be appropriate in every circumstance. But it is an incredibly powerful tool when it is used to promote technological literacy in today’s students. It’s quite impossible to predict what the job market may look like for today’s grade school students.
But we can help give them the skills they will need to communicate, design, create, manage, evaluate information and solve problems in today’s world. This isn’t a new concept, it’s just that it’s advanced along with modern technology. As access to home computers increased in the 1990s, schools need to keep up with it.
Teachers in previous generations maintained that students would not be able to walk around with a calculator in their pocket in adult life. The idea is that they would need advanced math skills to make up for this. Now, we walk around with the answer to nearly every conceivable question, including math, in our pockets. The question becomes how to optimize technology for the classroom and the educational experience for this reality.
Robotics companies have developed curriculums for literacy, math, and science. These companies are also exploring ways to help students apply higher level thinking to life’s problems. All of this seems to benefit students in their educational experience. But there are plenty of downsides to technology that device usage must be weighed against.
The Problems with Tech in Education
Technology itself has an addictive power to it. In fact, the average American adult spent two hours and 51 minutes on their cell phone every day in 2017. The argument is that developing curriculums that are unnecessarily technology-intensive reinforces these patterns.
There are other common problems with technology-based curriculums. For instance, when teens are in front of a device, they may be tempted to use social media sites instead of listening to the teacher and following along in class. For this reason, it helps to have firewalls set up to prevent usage of social sites in the school.
Enhanced tech usage can also result in network overload. Twenty-plus students in any given classroom surfing the web at one time can place high demands on a school’s infrastructure. When you factor multiple classrooms in a building doing the same thing, it’s easy to see the demand this can create.
Students May Not Always Have Pure Intentions
Increased technology usage can also put your network at increased security risk. You may find increasingly cunning older students who attempt to gain access to administrative servers. You may also have students more prone to cheat by looking up the answers on their own.
Carefully Weigh Technology Usage
It’s impossible to predict what the job market will look like for today’s youngest students, but a steady stream of technology will likely be part of it. Exposing children to today’s technology can no doubt help, but it needs to be done cautiously.
Experiments with one-on-one technology and other initiatives can help. When districts experiment with these ideas, they can factor in feedback on the go to create a stronger, more beneficial technology plan. It is possible to instill a technological literacy in a responsible way that will help students for years to come.
The Pros and Cons of Elearning
Elearning is everywhere. It’s popping into K-12 curriculum, gaining prevalence in colleges and universities, and it is an increasingly popular way to learn job skills. It’s even a growing way to learn new personal development skills.
Simply put, elearning offers a way to access educational materials through technology, outside of a classroom. In K-12 it might be something as simple as taking home a device for the evening. In the college or professional environments, it entire curriculums may be found online.
Technology offers a wider access to materials and can turn education into a more convenient experience – one that can be accessed from anywhere. While it offers tremendous advantages, it’s not for everyone. There are pros and cons to this style of learning.
The Advantages of Elearning
- Improved Access – Institutions that offer elearning programs gain access to a larger number of students. Students in turn gain access to larger amounts of information, that can be accessed from nearly any physical location. Both sides gain a tremendous advantage because of this.
- Easy to Use – When the platform is easy for students to use, it can streamline the whole process and improve learning results. This is important when students pay a significant amount in tuition costs to participate in the course. It’s also important when a company is depending on their employees to learn valuable course information.
- Customization – Elearning courses can be tailored to fit the needs of the institution or the company. There is a certain amount of flexibility built in, to meet students’ needs. Students can learn at their own pace without having to worry about the technology itself becoming a distraction to learning.
- Lowering Costs – When elearning is taking place outside a classroom setting, the costs can be significantly lower. There are no textbook or equipment costs, unless you are providing the technology to learn on. This can be a tremendous advantage for companies offering an elearning program to thousands of employees.
The Disadvantages of Elearning
- Incompatible Learning Styles – For some people, the classroom setting is precisely what makes the material click in their minds. They may favor a more hands on approach, or at least benefit from a teacher who is present to explain the information. It may be harder for them to pick up the information based on what they read over a device screen.
- A Lack of Social Interaction – For some, the best part of school or work is being in a room of peers. It may be a difficult adjustment to learn solely from an online platform.
- No Team-Building Benefits – Whether students are part of an academic classroom or your company’s department, creating a learning environment is inherently a team-building exercise. Students and coworkers learn to interact with each other in a cohesive manner that works to the benefit of everyone. This component is missing from elearning, which is more isolated.
- It Requires Self Discipline – When required learning can be done from the comfort of your own home, it is mixed into a world that is full of distractions. Students may be tempted to move on to other activities instead of sticking with the coursework. For this reason, elearning requires a strong dose of self-discipline to stay on task.
Elearning platforms should be carefully thought out to factor in both the advantages and disadvantages of the medium. For instance, if the material is more engaging, it may be more likely to hold students’ attention.
Elearning programs can have a tremendous advantage, but make sure the nuances are carefully considered before the program is implemented.