Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Technology in the classroom

I ask you to close your eyes (only briefly as it would be incredibly difficult to finish reading) and imagine a physics classroom where students are exploring acceleration and velocity through the use of a small wooden car, a rubber band, and a stop watch. This might sound strikingly familiar to your own physics class depending on the age of the reader. For many of us, there seems to be nothing out of the ordinary going on within this classroom… and there is the problem.

We are living in the 21st century with technology that is changing each and every walk of life. World altering innovations are being made on a daily basis with the use of this technology. And unfortunately, this very same technology is still obscure in many of the classrooms across the country. Take that imagination you had before and replace your rubber band driven wooden box car with an exact replica of a 1972 Ford Mustang. Never mind relying on your classmate’s quick finger and sharp eye to get an exact starting and stop time of your toy car. Instead this time imagine doing a video analysis with hi-definition optical lens cameras to obtain start and stop time accurate to within one thousandth of the exact time elapse. Those same students in the first scenario would be breaking down their observations with the teacher leading the discussion while the students in the second scenario would be getting a field experience with velocity and acceleration from an actual formula one race car driver.

I believe you would be hard pressed to find many students that thought the rubber band method was more intellectually invigorating than the method incorporating video simulations with field trained experts. On one hand, as a teacher, this whole idea is incredibly scary; a fluid curriculum that is ever changing as the global market dictates. On the other hand however, as a parent, if the knowledge/innovation is out there I most certainly want my son to have access to it.

With that being said, it should be noted that technology in the classroom could be a horribly misguided allocation of funds. I only mention this due to the countless number of classrooms that I have been in that use technology to deliver the same exact content that a paper and pencil lecture styled classroom would have been delivering. Rather than a chalk board teachers now use a smart board and think that they are tech savvy… sorry but wrong. In the 20th century classroom we used textbooks and curriculum to guide instruction because we were searching for the information to present to our students. With technology the information is available, with or without school. A classroom teacher’s job then transitions into teaching students how to learn rather than what to learn. What is even better is that technology can aid in that process as well by improving human connections. Students are now able to access peers, teachers, and field experts from all over the world with a simple click of a button. The possibilities are endless. Welcome to 21st century learning! 

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