Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 at 1:18pm

The wrong focus of technology in education

Posted by Jordan Erickson

I’ve been reading a lot about how technology is viewed by people working in education.

About 11 years ago when I was in high school, classes that involved computer technology focused on the computers themselves – we had courses such as “Computer Literacy”, “Introduction to Computers”, “Keyboarding” and many various specific software application classes.

Computers are used today by students just as pencil and paper were 50 years ago. Many students are quite computer literate before they even step foot into their school’s computer lab. With this increase in natural computer literacy by students, as well as the amazingly mature growth of what *kinds* of technology there is available in the world, I think there needs to be a restructure of how technology is actually taught and used in education.

I believe teachers around the world will agree with me when I say that computers should not solely be the *focus* when learning with technology, rather they should be a tool of the learning process (just like scissors or a notebook). So what, then, would be the focus when you’re using computers in school? Anything and everything, quite obviously, if you ask me. The possibilities are endless with what kinds of software (especially open-source software) is at the disposal of anyone on the planet who wishes to use it.

Let’s have an example, one that I’m going to think of right now as I type this: Let’s say you want to have students write a report regarding the growth of certain types of plants. Each group of students would have a specific plant (a tomato plant, for example) to research and grow one of their own during the research process. The students will report how the plant germinates, what conditions are required for it to flourish, what health benefits consuming its fruit has, and other specifics. There could be a day-by-day analysis of the state of the growth process, including pictures, text and other multimedia content.

With technology, it makes this project much simpler than without. Digital cameras can be used for importing pictures directly into a report. Typing up daily analysis reports would be much easier to edit and organize. I’ll come right out and say what I’ve been thinking – a wiki would be a perfect tool to use for the report process. Not only could a group of students easily collaborate and track changes to their final report, but other students in other groups could watch the progress of others, which would serve as a kind of ‘peer pressure’ to do your best, as others have the ability to see what you’re doing. And think about this – when the project is finished, a teacher could automatically post links to it on the school website for parents to see (this is great for working parents that might be able to review their childrens’ progress from the workplace). This is just one example, and the only prerequisite is to know how to use the wiki software which the school has implemented. This is an easy thing to do, as wikis are designed to be as user friendly and easy to learn as possible. A simple one-time class could serve at the beginning of the year to familiarize students with wiki syntax and editing.

Like I said before, software has matured so much lately that it can be used as a tool in many subjects. Turning in homework could be done instantaneously from a computer. Students being able to communicate with teachers via e-mail would be invaluable, personal, and time saving (not to mention probably much easier for some shy students that might not want to confront a teacher in person, including myself most likely when I was in school).

Skill testing could take the form of networked competitions between students (imagine a typing test or math quiz in which all students are “battling” each other in a networked game, with the highest ranking students facing off in a final competition to see who is the best). Not only can technology be used to make learning easier for today’s generation, it can be used to make it more *fun* and engaging. Integrating technology with the learning process seems like a no brainer to me – it’s just up to school administration staff to step up and embrace the technology that makes all of this possible.

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