Education

How Technology Changed Teaching And Learning

This post has been updated from a 2016 post

Here’s an analogy to help understand the potential of technology in learning. It’s a bit clumsy but bear with me.

Think of a teacher as an employee at a department store. Using store guidelines and frameworks for merchandising, an employee will go back to the stock room and grab products and widgets to then place on the sales floor in some recognizable way that doesn’t take up too much space and is easy to shop.

What that employee chooses to put out on the floor depends on a variety of factors, among them what’s selling, what’s in stock, and what priorities managers have placed on specific items.

While an established process that’s ‘worked for years,’ this model is limited as it is entirely governed by store policy, and the speed of a small handful of employees to stock. While fine in slower retail environments, in a busy store this system gets taxed very quickly. Missing sizes, incorrect pricing, low inventory on high-demand items, etc.

In this (labored) analogy, the teacher is the employee, surveying the sales floor, going back to the ‘stock room’ to ‘grab’ content (in the form of standards), then packaging these standards in a way that ‘shoppers’ (i.e., students) can–and want to–use.

The students shop (through compulsion) what the teachers put out.

But if you can add relevant technology to the equation, access changes at the ground level because the teacher is no longer the bottleneck (or, functioning in a well-designed system, the overworked employee).

To be fair, it’s true that this human ‘bottleneck’ plays a vital role in the process–being capable of a kind of art of understanding both students and content to design learning experiences accordingly. Unfortunately, this process has still proven artificially limited, placing an enormous burden on the well-intentioned teacher to make magic happen every single day for every single student.

(In fact, in response we’ve learned to silently accept much, much less than magic; teachers want proficiency, parents want good grades, and the goals of the students are entirely subverted either way if they are recognized and cultivated at all.)

The BBC also cited a study that says that technology actually hurts student achievement but each is more than a decade old now. A more recent summary offers mixed evidence of positive effects.

In a NY Times article from 2012, a neuroscientist made an interesting point, “His own research shows what happens to attention and focus in mice when they undergo the equivalent of heavy digital stimulation. Students saturated by entertainment media, he said, were experiencing a “supernatural” stimulation that teachers might have to keep up with or simulate. The heavy technology use, Dr. Christakis said, “makes reality by comparison uninteresting.”

The Impact Of Education Technology On Student Achievement: What The Most Current Research Has To Say is an overview of the impact of technology on education from 2012 from the Milken Exchange on Education Technology. While there was clear evidence of positive impact on ‘student achievement’ across the studies, there was a significant caution offered by the study’s summary which will sound familiar to readers: “There is, however, evidence in some of these studies that learning technology is less effective or ineffective when the learning objectives are unclear and the focus of technology use is diffuse.”

Put another way, the problem isn’t how effective is or is not, but in how closely it parallels the real world students live in.

But in lieu of seemingly positive data, the study is flawed from the beginning because it asks the wrong question. We continue to measure the ‘effectiveness’ of education in confounding ways. In What Works In Education And How Do We Know?, I speculated that, as it is, it seems that “to be effective in education then means to promote proficiency of academic standards for the greatest number of students.”

And that’s crazy.

Changing World, Changing Roles

What technology and all of its assorted gadgets do is provide a direct connection between the shoppers and the product–the students and the content. This means students are no longer shopping neatly organized end-cap displays full pre-packaged items, but rather the raw, unfiltered product. Stuff.

Content.

Of course, this isn’t perfect–and presents new challenges for schools and districts, as well as thought leaders in education trying to understand how to best leverage all of the simultaneous possibilities: mobile learning, game-based learning, eLearning, blended learning, and project-based learning tools–and all wedged into classrooms (or remote classrooms), curriculum, and other pieces of the puzzle not necessarily built to accommodate them. Bandwidth, privacy, safety, assessment, cost, access, using new tools in old learning models, and even the reality that all of these tools can end up making teachers work harder rather than saving them time or helping them become more efficient.

Textbooks were–for a while and as far as they were–successful because they allowed for ‘1:1’ access of students to content, but that content was built around traditional genres of math, science, history, and literature, and with a dreadfully boring delivery system to boot (a 400-page book loaded with essay questions). Bad packaging.

Instead of a thousand books (on a thousand different topics) classrooms only needed one. But what’s more interesting, the way the Venturi effect literally lifts a 40-ton plane into the sky, or ‘science’?

The way viruses mutate in almost sentient ways to respond to their environment, or ‘biology’?

Emily Dickinson’s lifelong struggle to understand the will of God, or ‘Language Arts’?

The way minor disadvantages in access to resources can ensure a civilization’s ultimate collapse, or ‘History’?

So then maybe we need to go back to a thousand. 

Or millions, because books, essays, poems, social media, and the internet itself aren’t packaged in ‘content areas’ and if they are–for example, an app designed to deliver pure standards-based math instruction–it probably isn’t significantly better than a good old-fashioned textbook coupled with a charismatic teacher. This suggests we ask some questions:

What is the role then of ‘content areas’? Do they still make sense in the 21st century? 

How does access to technology impact the way content–whether in traditional areas or not–is delivered? 

Do modern digital content distribution models (like YouTube’s) suggest new ways of thinking about information and knowledge, and the difference between the two?

How does access to Google impact modern knowledge demands?

More broadly, how can we best package content in the 21st century in light of the tremendous access to content students have? And what is the role of the teacher as everything, moment by moment, continues to churn and change?

The less accurate and intelligent our collective response, the further formal ‘schooling’ will retreat into a shadowy irrelevance.

How has technology changed the way we teach and learn?

The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Technology in Education

Technology has revolutionized the teaching and learning process in many ways. It has allowed for more effective and efficient communication between teachers and students, between teachers and parents, and between and among students. Additionally, it has enabled educators to provide more engaging and interactive lessons that better meet the needs of students.

Moreover, technology has made it easier for students to access educational materials and resources both online and offline. As a result, with properly-implemented education technology, students are able to learn at their own pace and in a more customized manner (though this hints at the added complexity technology brings to lesson planning, curriculum mapping, and so on).

Increased Connectivity

As technology has evolved, so too has the way we use it to connect with others. In education, this increased connectivity has facilitated new and innovative ways for teachers and students to collaborate and learn from one another. Through online forums, chats, wikis, and other collaborative tools, students are now able to share their ideas and expertise with classmates from around the globe in real time.

Disadvantage: Increased Cost

Technology has changed the way that people live and has had a significant impact on the teaching and learning process. The increased cost of technology has led to some schools not being able to afford the latest devices and software, which has impacted their ability to provide quality education. It adds cost to teacher training, too. Though many schools have been able to find ways to fund the purchase of technology and it is now widely used in the classroom, the increased cost is a significant challenge. And with increased cost comes…

Disadvantage: Increased Risk

However, in a technology-filled world, we would likely risk more by avoiding technology than we do using it in classrooms today.

Disadvantage: More complex (learning models, curriculum, assessment, instruction, schedules, policies–all of the pieces need to both work together and ‘interface’ well with technology. If not, it’s all an expensive, stressful mess that could actually hamper student achievement.

Benefit: Improved visibility of student work/data

Benefit: Access to a Global Learning Community

Technology has changed the way people learn and communicate with each other. With the use of technology, people can now access a global learning community where they can share ideas and connect with people from all over the world. This has allowed for new and innovative ways of teaching and learning to take place. Teachers are now able to connect with their students in a more personal way but more broadly, help connect students with one another inside and between schools, collaborating with one another on projects that span across different cultures, for example.

Benefit: More Engaging and Interactive Lessons

In the last decade, technology has drastically changed the way people learn. The traditional learning model, where students are given information by a teacher and then tested on that information, is no longer as effective as it used to be. Today’s students need more engaging and interactive lessons that allow for exploration and collaboration. Technology has made it possible for teachers to create these types of lessons, and as a result, students have a chance to learn in ways that better suit their individual needs.

Benefit: Easier to Personalize Learning

In the early days of formal education, if you wanted to learn something that wasn’t in the course material, you were out of luck. You either had to wait until the next class, hope your teacher would happen to cover that topic, or try to find a book or article on your own. These days, with the advent of technology in the classroom, things are a lot different. Open Education Resources, eLearning materials, social learning spaces, informal learning tools, games and apps for learning, YouTube, asynchronous discussions (like Quora or reddit) and more have all made personalized learning more accessible than ever.

Benefit: Greater Opportunities for Differentiated Learning

In the early days of education, there was a one-size-fits-all model for teaching and learning. However, with the advent of technology, different methods of teaching and learning can be customized to meet the needs of each student. This has led to greater opportunities for differentiated learning, which is when students are given different instructional approaches and/or materials based on their individual abilities and needs.

Benefit: More Opportunities for Collaborative Learning

In recent years, technology has revolutionized the way people live and work. Technology has also had a profound impact on education, making it possible for students to learn in new and innovative ways. One of the most notable changes brought about by technology is the increased use of collaborative learning. Collaborative learning is a teaching and learning strategy that encourages students to work together to achieve a common goal.

Benefit: Increased Availability of Educational Resources

The increased availability of educational resources has changed the way teachers teach and students learn. The traditional model of education, where the teacher is the only source of information and all students are passive receptacles of knowledge, is no longer relevant in the digital age. With the internet and various online tools, students can now access information from all over the world, and they can collaborate with other students to create projects that would have been impossible a few years ago.

Conclusion

Since the inception of technology, it has been changing the way people live their lives. In the early days, technology was used for communication purposes only. With time, it started being used for other activities such as teaching and learning. Today, technology has become an integral part of the teaching and learning process in most schools across the globe. There are a number of reasons why technology has had a positive impact on teaching and learning. Firstly, it has made learning more fun and interactive.

The 21st century has brought about many changes, including how we learn. With the advent of technology, the traditional learning model has changed. Now, students are able to learn in new and innovative ways, thanks to technology. In addition, teachers are able to teach in more engaging and interactive ways.


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