Saturday, August 21, 2010

10 basic reasons why technology MUST be used in class

Many educators are still rather reluctant when it comes to the use of technology in class. Some say it can easily distract stutends and therefore they lose focus ruinning their precious classes. Some claim that its cost is not in sync with its benefits. And even worse: some teachers are empowered with high-tech and they simply don't know what to do with it (!).

So, here are my favorite top 10 reasons why technology must be used in class:

1- Collaboration
How has your life as a teacher changed with the advent of the Web 2.0?
A Web 2.0 site gives its users free choice to interact or collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators (prosumer) of user-generated content in a virtual community, in contrast to websites where users (consumer) are limited to the passive role of content view that was created for them.
Web 2.0 draws together the capabilities of client- and server-side software, content syndication and the use of network protocols. Standards-oriented web browsers may use plug-ins and software extensions to handle the content and the user interactions. Web 2.0 sites provide users with information storage, creation, and dissemination capabilities that were not possible in the environment now known as "Web 1.0".
- Rather than laboring alone on homework, students can this way work in small groups wherever they happen to be and at any time

2- Here, there and everywhere
Skype, Msn Messenger, Google Voice... how many webtools can you name that provide interaction and communication with anyone in any part of the globe? Many!
The worldview of the student can be expanded because of the zero cost of communicating with other people around the globe. The Internet permits free video conferencing which permits interaction in real time with sister schools in other countries. From an educational viewpoint, what could be more important than understanding other cultures through direct dialog and collaboration?

3- Individual Sequencing and Studying Pace
Information technologies can permit students to break step with the class and go at a pace and order that suits that student better. Without disrupting the class, they can repeat difficult lessons and explore what they find interesting. With time, it will become more like having a private tutor rather than being lost in a large class. Moreover, students can research for other sources or simply find other ways to approach one subject.

4- Weight
One thing that really gets on my nerves is to see the poor student carrying tonnes of books in their backpacks because they have 4, 5 or maybe 6 different subjects one that day. Add up some notebooks, some binders, pencil cases and others material and voilá in 5 years' time you have a student with a chronic backache. Ipods have up to 32 gb storage which means thousands of files in it. A kindle reader may allow you to have approximatelly 1500 books weighing only 29g. An Ipad weighs 680g and the whole world can be put in there. Not to mention netbooks computers, cell phones, flash drivers and etc..

5- Ownership of Productivity
Students need productivity tools for the same reasons you do. They need to write, read, communicate, organize and schedule. A student's life is not much different from any knowledge worker, and they need similar tools. Even if they are never used in the classroom, portable personal computers will make a student's (and teacher's) life more effective. To cash in this benefit, schools need to go paperless.

6- Organization
How often do you lose your mind trying to find that slip of paper where you made that important annotation? Get rid of them! Go paperless! Use social bookmarking. The way I use social bookmarking is quite simple. Since I do a lot of my work at home, I often bookmark at home and then access those bookmarks at school. For example, if there are several youtube videos I want to show students, I bookmark them at home and then load them when I go to school in the morning. Using bookmarks you don't need to create "folders" for each site you want to mark, you can just tag them. Not to mention the power of social networking. You can follow people and get to know what they've tagged.

7- Learning X Teaching
Technology allows the tables to be turned. Instead of teaching (push), students can be given projects that require them to learn (pull) the necessary material themselves. Key to this is the ability to get the information they need any time anywhere, without being in the physical presence of a teacher. This project-based pull approach makes learning far more interesting for the student. I strongly believe that students cannot wait to get out of regular classes to go to the after-school internet project.

8- Depth in Understanding
Interactive simulus are prone to produce a much greater depth of understanding of a concept. When virtual manipulatives are used in a classroom setting they can go far beyond chalk and talk. The use of visuals in a collaborative space conduct to curiosity and investigation therefore demonstrate concepts far beyond the traditional talk and hand-raising.

9- Time and Space Stretching
There's no substitute for a teacher. No machine wil ever do that - Thank God ;-) However, we the use of internet and its many tools we can stretch the time students spend with their teachers. Teachers could be found and thus help studentes develop at any time. Plus, on-line material can be much more available than that. A student who wishes to hit the "books" at 1:00am can do it easily sitting in front of his computer.
The use of textbooks inside a classroom are unfortunately and inevitably limited. On the other hand, a wireless laptop has access to the teacher's course material and the entire Internet almost anywhere. This is also a vastly larger resource than can be practically carried on paper in a backpack.

Bottom line: information technology allows learning anywhere, anytime; not just in one particular classroom for 60 minutes a day.

10- Express yourself. Don't repress yourself!

Webtools allow students to express themselves in a never-seen-before way. Let their imagination fly by creating and editing videos, prezi presentations, run a class blog or a web-based newspaper, exchange podcasts, create a web-based TV program or radio station, compose digital music.. Be creative and let them be as well.

In short, we have still a long path to go so as to achieve the goal of a technological class, especially in Brazil where technology may be costy and teachers are rather too much old-school material. However, I believe that if education is about knowledge and intellectual skills, then we have to beware that IT is at the core of it. It is just a transition and we'll survive. Don't worry.

See you in a post :-)


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