Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Position Statement: Learning and Teaching with Technology

Technology is profoundly changing the world, but the impact on education has been slow. In real life, students are connected 24/7 through email, chat rooms and cell phones, yet in the classroom students and teachers are still isolated. Modern students are constantly multi-tasking as they chat with a friend in a chat room, text message another on the cell phone, do research on the internet while listening to music or watching TV. Yet, again, in the classroom, teachers expect students to do one task at a time. Technology has changed the way students think and perceive the world and education needs to be at the vanguard of this movement.

Technology has the potential to dramatically change the way students learn and teachers teach. Communication is faster and easier through email and can reach a broader audience through satellite feeds or conference calls. Productivity can be increased through word processing programs, grading programs, and presentation programs like PowerPoint. Access to information has increased through the internet, DVDs, CD-ROMs and on-line libraries and museums. Individual learning needs can be address through animated computer programs, video and audio versions of textbooks or novels, self-paced on-line courses, and personal adaptive devices.

These factors should lead to a change in the way students are educated and teachers instruct. Students can collaborate on projects, not only with students in their classroom, but with classrooms around the world. Parents and teachers can increase their communication through email updates, on-line classroom web pages, and voice mail. Student projects don’t have to be linear presentations with poster board or clay. Instead, students can create electronic simulations, web pages, and HyperStack or PowerPoint presentations with audio and animation. Teachers also are not limited to lecturing with an overhead, but can use the same types of programs to deliver instruction. The knowledge of the world is available on a desktop computer, which means teachers and students need to know how to access and evaluate it. At the same time, the ease of collecting information triggers the need to transform the type of coursework given to encourage the application, adaptation, evaluation and synthesis of information instead of just reproduction.

Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.” - King Whitney Jr, President, Personnel Laboratory Inc.

Technology has the potential to dramatically change the way students learn and teachers teach, but it requires vision and support to create the inspiration to take on the challenge. Too often school districts throw money at the hardware part of technology without considering the needs of the user – the teachers and students. This type of thinking produces over-sized typewriters! For a school to effectively teach with technology, there needs to be a clear sense of vision and achievable goals with the support of hardware, software, training, in-service, support personnel, and time.

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