Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Five Ways to Integrate Technology into the Classroom

Here is a guest post from Joe Taylor, Jr., an author, training advisor, and business manager for a Fortune 500 technology company.

Few debates rile up parents and politicians as much as how to improve education. Just as technology has overhauled how we do business around the world, rapid changes to educational tools have stoked discussion over how to bring new devices and ideas into the classroom. Some educators even wonder whether these five forms of educational technology negate the need to bring kids into a classroom at all:

1. Content creation

Educational technology levels the playing field for both students and teachers. Giving all participants access to the same tools enables teachers to activate a variety of learning and communication styles. Instead of assigning a term paper, some teachers request projects that include polished videos, podcast audio recordings or even published websites.

According to an annual PBS survey, teachers recognize that digital content assignments help reach students with varying learning styles. Entrepreneur and homeschooling parent Penelope Trunk suggests using online tools to publish students' projects to audiences far beyond a single teacher or class. On her blog, Trunk writes that publishing prepares students for the kind of communication they'll use daily in their careers.

2. Curriculum development

image courtesy of hamiltonrentals.wordpress.com
Bringing technology into the classroom doesn't just mean issuing laptops or tablets to students. From swapping best practices with colleagues on Twitter to participating in a virtual symposium with teachers located around the world, teachers can connect their students to the most current best practices for classroom education.

Instead of relying on outdated textbooks, teachers can publish their own instruction materials directly to e-book readers or tablet devices. Teachers with strong presentation skills have already popped up on YouTube and elsewhere online, where even more students can benefit from their passion.

3. Video games

Unlike lectures and other traditional learning formats, educational video games scale. They engage students one-to-one, rewarding results and enabling advanced achievement. Some of the most compelling education video games connect students, teachers and other game players from around the world.

Students also use games to build their own virtual universes. Alice, a 3D environment from Carnegie Mellon University, teaches the significant skills found in computer programming classes as students use the tool for storytelling and project creation. Alex Peake's "Code Hero" project requires participants to build new layers of the game as they play it.

4. Social media

Tweets, text messages and Facebook updates permeate the lives of most students. Yet, out of fear that students will bully or distract each other during class, many schools ban social media and personal technology from the classroom. Students crave connection so deeply that a New York entrepreneur has equipped vans as secure technology lockers. Parked outside busy schools, kids can stow their digital gear inside there for quick pickup after the last bell rings.

Instead, some educators suggest embracing social media in the classroom. According to teacher Mike Ribble, schools offer an ideal environment for what he calls "digital citizenship." Ribble and other social media advocates encourage teachers to grow students' communications and security skills -- traits that American Management Association members call essential to tomorrow's careers.

5. Remote learning

Projects like Khan Academy aim to reach students who don't always have access to compelling classroom experiences. The website includes hundreds of instructional lectures for free, designed for discussion with teachers, parents and coaches. Studies indicate that exposure to even basic micro-lessons posted to YouTube can help students advance math and scientific skills.

Online colleges offer more examples of remote learning environments, enabling students to blend a combination of real-time and asynchronous learning experiences into degree programs that reach the same results as campus-based courses of study. Charter schools have promoted remote learning tools as a way to keep slow learners or bullies from hindering the success of more advanced students.

Debate over this, and other types of technology, will keep raging, especially since the tools evolve and change faster than the current education system can measure results. In the meantime, parents and community leaders will keep relying on their own passion to help innovate the learning experience.

Joe Taylor Jr. has covered finance and business markets for over two decades. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, Fox Business, and ABC News. Previously, Joe worked as a marketing and customer service training advisor for three of the country's leading consumer lenders. He recently completed a personal finance book entitled The Rogue Guide to Credit Cards; (Rogue Guide Books, 2012). When not writing, Joe serves as a business sales manager for a Fortune 500 technology company.


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