Friday, September 30, 2011

Recently I was contacted by Lindsey Wright of Online School who requested to do a guest blog here. After much consideration, I have decided to share her post which has some interesting thoughts:

Students Must Remain the Focus in Wired Classrooms
There is no question that new technology has a place in the modern classroom. Children are growing up in a technology centered world where knowing how to use new technology will be necessary for more and more jobs as time goes on. As such, technology in the classroom has the potential to increase learning opportunities when used correctly. Conversely technology alone is not enough to allow students to excel. Thus, teachers must find an appropriate balance between keeping their classrooms current and meeting the needs of their students.

Changing the Focus in the Classroom

Recently there has been a lot of focus on getting technology like additional computers, laptops and interactive whiteboards into the classroom. In fact, some intuitions have even gone as far as letting students attend school online. However some would argue that there is too much. Individual students have different learning styles and needs, and amidst the excitement over new technology, the students must remain the priority.

One of the main benefits discussed in relation to using more technology in the classroom is that students can learn at their own pace. Yet this type of thinking has some flaws. Computers and the Internet allow students to explore topics that interest them and learn in their own way, but teachers must be careful to maintain standards and ensure students are still learning the basics required for that grade level.

The “do-it-yourself approach” also ignores those students who have trouble being independent and learning on their own. These students need the regular guidance of a teacher to keep them on task. There are many different ways to use technology in the classroom and schools and teachers must be careful to design the classroom so that the needs and learning styles of each individual student are being met. It is imperative the focus in the classroom remains on the students rather than on using new technology at all costs.

What Can be Done to Make Sure Students Needs are Being Met?

The Educational Technology Journal, emphasizes that computers by themselves are not going to appropriately teach students. School districts must recognize that in addition to providing new computers in each classroom, the computers must come equipped with high quality educational programs. More importantly, schools need to ensure that all teachers are trained to use the technology in their classrooms in an effective manner that will meet the needs of every student.

Evidence that technology alone will not change education for the better can be found in an Arizona school district.The district offers state of the art classrooms with laptops, huge projection screens and interactive whiteboards. Yet even with these innovative classrooms, the test scores in that district remain unchanged. Evidence like this suggests that something might be wrong with an approach that focuses too heavily on providing new technology and possibly neglects the needs of students.

Luckily there are several ways teachers can ensure the technology that is being incorporated into their classrooms works to the advantage of their students. For instance, teachers can arrange classrooms in away that ensures the focus remains on teaching and learning, rather than the technology in the classroom. If there is one computer available, the teacher might connect it to a projector and use it to supplement to a lesson. On the the other hand, there are many different ways to design the classroom if there are several computers available. The teacher might arrange small groups of computers together so students can work in small clusters at different computer stations or spread each computer to a different place in the classroom, using each one for a different purpose.

Technology is changing the world we live in, including education. However with the focus on getting as much new technology into the classroom as possible, educators must be careful not to neglect the needs of the students.

Lindsey Wright is fascinated with the potential of emerging educational technologies, particularly the online school, to transform the landscape of learning. She writes about web-based learning, electronic and mobile learning, and the possible future of education.

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