This is a very exciting age to be an educator!
When I was a child and went to school, I remember having to do everything by hand, and the extent of our class’ use of technology were the bi-monthly trips we would take to the computer lab only to be forced into using outdated hardware and irrelevant software. Things are different today. Tests are taken electronically rather than with pencil and pen. Scores are tracked using online ‘cloud’ storage systems, large electronic databases stored overseas that house millions of gigabytes of information. Homework is assigned through websites, and I-Pads, it would seem, are slowly but surely replacing the traditional school textbook. The world is changing before our eyes, and as a result the demands that are being placed on the students, teachers, and administration are shifting as well.
Today, thousands of schools across America are retooling their current educational pedagogies in order to meet the changing trends of the globe. A popular (although controversial) example of the retooling happening in our schools is the Common Core Initiative, a set of educational standards that are designed to teach students twenty-first century skills. Sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are intended to emphasize project-based learning, the use of technology in the classroom, and the provision of multi-modality instruction for students who learn differently (Fastman, 2013). Set to commence in the Fall of 2013, the Common Core Initiative will quickly become a factor in a number of schools all across America, affecting millions of students along the way. Though many people around the nation are currently enthusiastic about the CCSS and what it means for our country’s stagnating school models, many teachers currently feel threatened by the new requirements that these standards will now demand of their profession, particularly when it comes to the use of technology.
No group has a greater number of proponents for educational technology than the parents of students, many of whom are indeed pushing for the integration of technology into the child’s daily curriculum at school. In response to this, the administration of schools across the U.S. are now putting unprecedented amounts of pressure onto teachers--usually the most seasoned ones--to either ramp up their efforts to use technology in the classroom or be replaced. As more and more schools shift towards a technological approach, the push for digital computer training will continue to grow until it becomes a requirement of the profession. Indeed, not just schools, but entire districts today are aggressively pursuing grants that would allow them to have an I-pad for each student in a classroom. For many other teachers across America, the writing is on the wall: either begin using and integrating technology into your daily routine or face termination.
There is a refreshing side to this dilemma, however; the educational technology that is being used today in schools is not just good at what it does, it is groundbreaking at what it does. The tablets provided to students today in schools offer them a range of functions, tools, and information, all within reach of their fingertips. Whereas before students would need to bring with them pencils, papers, calculators, books, erasers, compasses and other various sorts of “school-tools”, the students of today need only to rely on one sleek, slick, and small E-tablet that provides them with just about anything they would need school-related. From providing classes with encyclopedic information, to organizing graphics for class presentations, to interacting with classmates online, to offering students fun yet educational games that stimulate learning--the opportunities today for innovative education involving the use of technology are truly endless.
Eager to cater to this new market, many companies are now actively touting their products as the next ‘big thing’ in education. Apple, for example, describes it’s new iPad as “the perfect learning companion. Every lesson [with the iPad] is more hands-on. You can easily customize the learning experience for each student with apps and books geared to any level. [Using applications] you can organize and deliver all your lessons...so students have access to their learning materials on their iPads wherever they go” (Apple, 2013). With the release of the much publicized iTunesU (an application that allows teachers to post videos of themselves online), Apple is seeking to turn its iPad into a hub of educational interactivity, leaving them at the forefront of the current technological wave that is washing over our schools across the country.
Other companies, such as Amazon and Samsung, are currently in a fevered competition to produce the best E-Reader, a small and transportable electronic device that is capable of downloading almost any book ever published (Tilley, 2013). E-Readers alleviate the burdens that come with carrying 4 or 5 textbooks around in one backpack. As a sixth-grader who was forced to carry around a 40 pound bag of books on his back for up to two hours a day, I can frankly say that this is a remarkable invention and a true paradigm shift in the way we read books and digest information (I am a short 5’7 and yes, I blame it on my 6th grade backpack). With more and more E-readers becoming “textbook friendly”, it might even seem as if the traditional textbook’s days are numbered. With the many benefits that these tools are offering, trends today in America show that technology use in the class is becoming more important and prevalent (Corcoran, 2013). Contending with this are the teachers, some of whom have little to no experience with the use of technology in the classroom, let alone their personal lives.
As mentioned before, without the right training, using the applications of the E-tablets can be troublesome for many teachers especially when considering how adept students today are at the use of technology. As someone who must command authority with students, many teachers find it hard to enthusiastically approach the use of technology within their classroom for fear of looking like they don’t have all the ‘right’ answers. However, for better or for worse, as we move forward in the twenty-first century, humankind’s interaction with technology will become more immersive, commonplace, and even intrinsic. One mother, for example, describes her baby’s interaction with technology as she begins to develop:
[My 8 month old daughter Lily] has been teething almost as long as she has been alive, but still no teeth. We have bought her several things that baby books tell you help, but she doesn’t know what to do with any of them. My phone is normally by with me and she is fascinated by it. She knows which button to press to make the screen light up, and she will do this incessantly. It is just the right depth for her mouth, and as the edge of the screen isn’t totally smooth she rubs it on her gums...As an aside, I was reading through the developmental milestones that are followed by her nursery for her age; one is to do with engaging with technology. I thought that was pretty cool. (Knowles, 2012)
Today, there is a growing demand for more ubiquity when it comes to technology use in school (Evans, 2013). Teachers who lack the training to use said technology, however, are becoming more and more marginalized by administration in order to meet the demand. The need for a clear approach to the use of technology in the classroom has never been more important, integral, and necessary than it is today.
When one is exploring new frontiers, it can be prudent to employ a guide that can help you along the way. Even America's most famous explorers, Louis and Clarke, could not have succeeded on their journey without the help and contributions of Sacajawea. We here at The Moggindale are dedicated to seeking out the latest findings, opinions, and news regarding all things related to educational technology. So whether you are a seasoned teacher looking to inject more of a digital presence into your lesson plans or a parent looking to supplement their child's approach to learning with additional opportunities for technology usage, think of us as your own personal Sacajawea as you journey through the exciting new frontier that is educational technology!
Editor-in-Chief of The Moggindale