Thursday, March 3, 2016

Guest Post: How Digital Technology is Changing Education

Disclosure: I am not the author of this article, this is a guest post. 

How Digital Technology is Changing Education
 By: Maurine Dashney

If you were to spend a day in a public school today, observing how the students learn and what tools they now have at their disposal for learning, you’d likely find yourself surprised at how drastically it is from when you were in school. High school students studying in-depth computer science, middle school students taking their standardized tests all online, elementary school aged children with tablets—it’s remarkable to say the least. Here is a look at how current technology is changing the way that our children are learning in school.

Learning made mobile

With mobile technology comes increased flexibility in where we learn, truly taking learning beyond the classroom. Online coursework has been an option for students—middle school aged and college aged alike—for several years, but now online coursework is even more accessible than ever, and students can choose to view their coursework at a desk with a laptop, on a sofa with a tablet, or at a nearby park with a phone. Even social media is becoming integrated with this mobile learning style, as this article details. Students can find college level lectures made public via platforms like YouTube, follow podcasts that enrich their learning, collaborate with other students over the web, and more, meaning that your education can travel with you.

Mobile technology in classrooms

This same mobile technology is being utilized in the classroom as well. Sure, college students have been bringing their laptops to lectures for years now, but now even elementary school aged children—sometimes referred to as today’s “digital natives”—are using mobile technology in the classroom. In fact, most are beginning to see mobile technology in the classroom as a necessity, as it allows children to learn through the digital medium that they are most used to using. Students can use classroom tablets that are filled with textbooks, or play vocabulary learning games on classroom phones. Any reading done on tablets is now interactive, and students can quickly and easily look up words, cross-reference pieces of information with online content, view embedded animations, and more. One major advantage of having mobile technology in the classroom is that those with learning disabilities can take advantage of useful assistive technology like text-to-speech conversion, audio recording, voice over, or zoom, giving them an increased sense of normalcy around other students. Advantages in other digital technologies such as high tech monitors (such as these) also enhance the way that educators share information with their students.

Stronger educational methods

While it can be easy to assume that our ability to look up just about anything on the web decreases our motivation to learn and makes us less intelligent, many researchers believe that digital technology is actually enhancing the way we learn, making us smarter. Gamification, for example, is a technique that draws on video game design and elements to make learning more fun and engaging, and so far it seems to be having very positive effects on students—particularly on those who are prone to getting distracted. Digital technology also has the ability to engage students in more perceptual learning, which is the type of learning involved in learning a musical instrument or a foreign language. It can even be used to personalize the learning process, meeting students where they are academically and adapting to their particular learning styles.

Up-to-date curriculum

One major advantage to digital technology is that curriculum now has the power to evolve at faster rate. Considering the time that takes to print and distribute a textbook, for example, by the time a textbook reaches students, it’s already somewhat out of date. Digital technology removes the time intensive printing process and greatly facilitates distribution, meaning that educational reading material can constantly be updated.

An evolving curriculum

Moreover, advancing technology means that we need to train our students more and more in interacting with that technology. Computer science, for example, is obtaining a stronger and stronger presence in high schools, and digital literacy is steadily growing in importance in school curricula. Meanwhile, many students are taking coursework that will ultimately prepare them to enter brand-new industries like online marketing—an industry that hardly existed even just two decades ago. (You can read more about that evolving industry here.)

Democratizing education

Though of course we still have a long way to go in terms of making education accessible to all, it can definitely be argued that digital technology is democratizing education by making a wealth of information available to everyone who has access to the web.


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