Re-thinking Education and Technology

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Categorized as one of the greatest influences of today’s society, technology touches every aspect of our lives. The way we eat, sleep, drive, exercise, cook, read, socialize, communicate, teach, and learn have been transformed by a form of technological innovation. One only has to look as far as the hand (i.e., cell phone, IPad, MP3, GPS, e-books) to realize that everyday activities involve some form of electronic device. No industry has been able to avoid its reaches, not without unfavorable consequences. These technical means have not only sparked innovation and creation but also speed and accessibility. Making it possible to reach a broader audience while placing the world at their fingertips.

The field of education has been one of those industries disrupted by technological innovation. Though sometimes reluctant or slow to embrace change, higher education or post-secondary institutions have quickly had to adapt to a constantly changing learning environment; adopting new teaching and learning practices. First it was to address the learning behaviors of the millennials generation, those considered digital natives, now Generation Z (Gen-Z). Gen-Z will expect the same level of technological innovation centered on social media which will be critical to their social and academic educational experience.

Educational and Learning Technology are not new terms in higher education. It is only now that these fields are making their way to the forefront of discussions surrounding curriculum development, teaching, and learning. Ironically, secondary education has embraced technological innovation for years, but post-secondary institutions still struggle to effectively integrate its use into classroom teaching and learning practices.

This past semester Dr. Richard Halverson, a professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis in the UW-Madison, facilitated a discussion on rethinking education in an age of technology. Richard explained how technologies such as (MOOCs), gamification, fantasy sports, social media, mobile devices and Kahn Academy had drastically changed the way institutions teach and delivery instruction. The landscape of learning is now tech2becoming a more social and interactive experience instead of a series of isolated and disconnected activities.

Dr. Halverson cautions not to select technology solely based on its newness or popularity but on teaching and learning objectives. Culture should determine technology use. Decide what type of learning environment you want to create and the learning management system (LMS) to best accomplish this goal. That means understanding the difference between technologies that are content-centered vs. technologies that are learner-centered.

Technology for Content

  • Focus is on content mastery
  • Regulated by standards (i.e., district, local, state, federal)
  • Emphasis is on accountability for meeting standards
  • Democratic; basis progress on learning for all
  • Schools create and manage learning environment

Technology for Learners

  • Emphasis is on means to the user’s end
  • Learning is random not organized
  • Several learning opportunities (intentional and unintentional)
  • Meritocratic; basis progress on individual ability and talent
  • Learners create and manage learning environment

In the past, educational institutions have practiced a single model for the delivering of instruction. The teaching of a particular discipline or subject took place in a school (brick and mortar), and transmission of that knowledge was from the teacher to the student. Course content guided lesson delivery while the student assumed a passive role in the learning process.

Technological innovation has made it possible for knowledge to be fluid, flowing back and forth between teacher-student and peer-peer. Instruction can be student and learning centered while also creating a social learning space. Establishing virtual affinity spaces can encourage students to share ideas, ask questions, mentor, collaborate on projects and join groups of interest. This “participatory culture” allows students to form relationships and build networks. Instead of assuming a passive role students are active participants in their learning. The instructor becomes a facilitator of learning.

Students enter the learning environment varying in learning styles and learning behavior. What works for one student many not necessarily meet the needs of another. To capitalize on learning opportunities and academic outcomes instructors need to incorporate a variety of teaching tools and resources to engage students. That includes using a combination of traditional teaching methods as well as technologically based formats. No longer is the one size fit all approach acceptable.

Don’t teach the way you know, teach the way they learn!!!!

 

3 thoughts on “Re-thinking Education and Technology”

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