Archive for category new technology

The Role of Technology in Education

So many people espouse the many benefits of technology in education. Sometimes it seems like the so-called “experts” are getting kickbacks from the technology industry. So, how do you tell if a new technology is actually worth the time, money and effort? Here’s how I judge new technologies.

There are two things that technology should and must do if it’s to be found in the classroom. One is that it must increase student learning. Now I’m not one of those folks who emphasize the difference between “teaching” and “learning.” In other languages, these two words are one in the same. So, when I talk about student learning, that includes anything that helps teachers teach better and students learn better.

The other main purpose of technology in education is to help reduce the workload of teachers and students. This seems like a fairly straight-forward request. However, you’d be amazed how many new technologies have been introduced but no one has given an ounce of thought to how it impacts the teacher or student. Sometimes “time-saving technologies” actually add hours to the end users. What they usually do is save someone else’s time. ¡No bueno!

So if you hear about a technology that just “has to be in your school,” ask for specific details about two things: the impact on student learning and the work-load reduction. If they promise things that are beyond your wildest dreams, they may be trying to sell you something.

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Who Should You Call? 911 or Facebook?

A recent event highlights a critical need for adults to help young people navigate the new digital world that we’ve created. Two girls who were lost in a storm drain decided that they should update their Facebook status instead of call for help. Read the story here at ABC News-Australia. It’s imperative that teachers and parents step up to the plate and help young people understand how to use new technology appropriately. We can’t sit on the sidelines and “let the kids figure it out.” We created this technology–it’s our responsibility that it’s used correctly.

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Adults and New Technology

One thing that many adult users of technology tell me is that they don’t pick up new technology like younger folks do. This is a common misbelief. I think the core issue has nothing to do with “young brains” or “digital natives” or even the “technology today.” I’ve used technology to teach every age group from adults to elementary students. There are two main differences. The first is that kids aren’t afraid of breaking things. That’s a good thing when trying something new but it’s a bad thing for those of you who are parents. Kids dive right in and begin using new technology-whatever it is.

The other main difference between how kids and adults use technology has to do with the fact that adults are used to being proficient. We pick up a pencil and we know what to do. When we get in a car, we know what to do. The list goes on and on. That’s a good thing-we’ve had a lot of time to learn about the world. However, when we encounter a new technology, there is a hesitation. Sometimes we feel as if we should already know how to work this thing. Adults want to be or at least appear to be proficient. Kids on the other hand are used to being novices. When kids see or work with something new, it’s just another day for them. Their whole world is series of new events, places, things, and ideas.

As adults, we can learn from the kids. When we encounter a new technology, we need to resist the fear of breaking it. Go ahead, play around, push all of the buttons, see what it can do. You won’t break it, I promise. Also, don’t expect to be an expert. Adults sometimes are so used to being the expert that we forget what it’s like to try something new. So go ahead, try something novel. Capture within yourself an adventurous spirit and dive into a new technology. You won’t regret it, I promise.

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Cloud Computing-the future or doom?

With the recent problem with Gmail (news) outage, many computer users are wondering about the use of “cloud computing.” Simply put, cloud computing is the idea that you save all of your electronic documents, files, pictures, etc. to somewhere on the internet (this is called the “cloud”). You can access them from anywhere.  All you need is an internet connection and your username and password. Ever since computing was born, the dilemma of where to save has one main problem: what if that location goes down. In the early days, we saved to floppies. Then we moved to hard drives, the internet, CDs, flashdrives and other devices. The problem that Gmail experienced is not a new one. What’s new is the number of people affected.

Some say that the idea of “cloud computing” is dangerous. They point to the Gmail outage to call attention to this fear. However, this point seems irrelevant now since so much of our data is now electronic. The question isn’t where to save it; the question is how do we protect that data from loss or temporary disruption. Backup systems need to be in place for quick recovery if needed. There is cause to be careful but let’s be clear what the issues are.

In the case that we can’t get to our data because the “cloud” or other celestial location is unavailable, my advice to you is to relax. If you can’t get your email for an hour or two, have a glass of orange juice. Just sit and enjoy a conversation with a friend.

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