2.21.2008

Surprise, Surprise: Technology Can be a Tool For Learning

Teachers at Sitting Bull Elementary school have discovered that employing technology during teaching can be a helpful tool for learning. More than half the teachers are using an Interwrite Pad. This pad allows them to make notes and have the notes projected onto a big screen in front of the class. This is a step in an obvious direction, like a paratrooper jumping out of a plane and deciding to head for the ground. Read more here.

But couldn't there be so much more? In nearly every aspect of life from making phone calls to driving, hi-tech gadgets are becoming ubiquitous. Today a person can admit to being "computer illiterate" and still probably function on a reasonable level, but not without some hardship. In less than ten years, technology will be the new literacy. Having some aptitude with various (they're all so similar anyway) user interfaces and navigation menus will be not only necessary, but expected.

So why does one of my instructors at Fresno City College still insist that I may only use my laptop if I'm not "out surfing the web" during her lecture? Little does she know that as soon as she mentions a new important media figure and begins to ask pseudo-rhetorical questions about what we think that person may be known for, I've already got the Wikipedia entry in front of me as well as some pictures of the person and a list of links pertinent to them thanks to my friend, Google. Granted, she may not be the best example as she has a powerful desire to see that all thought and comment in her classroom is controlled by her, but it's a great example of an old mindset that's crippling the educational process in America.

In my previous job, I was privileged to attend part of a class in a Master's of Divinity program, that my friend Eric was enrolled in, taught by Earl Kreps. Earl not only encouraged the use of laptops during class, he understood that learning isn't encouraged by forcing feigned interest in every word an instructor utters. His goal was to encourage and facilitate discussion, often speaking very little himself. This glimpse into post-graduate studies is a light at the end of my scholastic tunnel - hoping that not all instructors will be so enamored with their words as a couple I'm learning from now.

In fairness, the subject matter in a post-grad divinity course is more conducive to shared learning than a mass-media class. However, with a classroom full of laptops equipped with internet access, an interactive learning experience could go a long way to drawing in fringe participants of the class, as well as revealing information that may not otherwise be covered. It also offers a foothold for future study, should a particular subject prove noteworthy to a student. This possibility exists either way, but with in-class technology, a quick bookmark and outlook reminder can ensure further study as opposed to the fleeting thought that "this sounds interesting."

Think about it, America. It's time we pulled our heads out of our hall passes and embrace this internet fad. Encourage interaction and further study in the classroom, while increasing engagement. Plus, I could finally catch up on facebook friend requests & check out digital daily.

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