Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Technology/Revolution
"Technology" is a broad term dealing with the use and knowledge of humanity's tools and crafts. (Technology) Although the term “technology” itself is hard to define, it is easy to see all of the advances that have been made in the technological field in the past decades and their affects on education. More people are going to school now than ever before and are enriching and continuing their education with the help of many different technological means. Not only are computers and other electronic devices being used in the classroom, but distance learning and virtual reality are becoming more common as well. Incorporating new tools provides more ways for teachers to reach their students, and these techniques are making the learning environment more innovative and interactive.
As little as twenty years ago, no one could have imagined the kinds of technology that we readily have available today. Students from generations ago had to go to class every day, write notes, and use simple function calculators to solve complex math problems. To learn a foreign language, they had to listen to their teacher and try to have conversations with other students in the new language. Any visuals in the classroom were most likely posters or drawings on the chalkboard, and to type a paper meant to use a typewriter, or handwrite it if you could not afford one. To gain information, whether for general knowledge or a project, students had to go to the library and search what was available to them, or were taken on limited, costly field trips.
Technology Today and in the Future
In today’s society, technology is everywhere, especially in our learning environment. Many practices from the past are now rarely used or even considered, because there are now faster, more efficient, and interactive ways to complete the same tasks.
Technology in the Classroom
Students in a classroom now take for granted many of the technological advances that have been made in the past few years, because these tools have become so important to the educational world that they are now widely used. Teachers are incorporating movies and video clips into their lessons with the use of televisions, and many students now have the opportunity to make a video presentation for class projects. TV is also being used to support the learning process in an innovative program started in 2006 by the National Council of Teachers and Mathematics (NCTM) and Texas Instruments (TI). NCTM and TI teamed up with producers from the show Numb3rs, a hit on the CBS network, which is about a mathematician who helps the FBI by solving complex theories using math problems. According to Linda Beheler of TI, the purpose of the program is to make math more relevant in students’ daily lives. “’We always get the same question,’ said Beheler. ‘Students always want to know, ‘How are we ever going to use this stuff in the real world?'" And that's the idea behind the Numb3rs initiative--"to show them how these [concepts] apply to what they do in life’” (Murray). The classes using this program have turned it into a web quest in which students go onto the program’s website and download different activities to do which correspond with the focus of the episode. The activities incorporate scientific and graphing calculators, which are also beneficial technological advances, because now complex math problems can be solved by utilizing the right series of the calculators’ functions.
Computers are one of the most important technological improvements that have been made. What once took up an entire room now can fit on the desk of any teacher or student, and is even made portable in the form of laptops. Programs such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and the Internet have transformed the world of teaching. Now teachers can perform slideshows of their lesson using Power Point, with notes, sound, and video clips; this program combines the lesson and the visuals in one, making the presentation seamless and easier for students to follow. Students and teachers alike can type and edit a paper using Microsoft Word, save it to a flash drive, and bring it somewhere else to continue working. This program also allows teachers to type up something for their class and print multiple copies instantly, and it allows students to make last minute changes to a paper or project that needs to be turned in – things that could not be done years ago using a typewriter. The Internet is an amazing resource that is accessed on the computer as well. While surfing the web, students and teachers have millions of pages of information at their fingertips, plus the Internet provides access to email and websites that lets teachers, parents, and students to communicate easily and more frequently. In addition to communication, the Internet allows for more access to research materials from all over the world and other information that would not otherwise be available.
An up and coming technological innovation for the classroom is the SmartBoard. This amazing invention permits the teacher to use the computer as easily as a whiteboard. It is great as a presentation tool, encourages participation in students with limited mobility, appeals to a wide range of learning styles, and enables students to revisit material they did not understand or were not present to receive, including the teacher’s explanation. The SmartBoard can be used to view movies and share various software applications with the class including Microsoft PowerPoint, Hyper Studio, Excel, Word, and Internet Explorer, just to name a few. It has many applications that can be used in a variety of classes. In Language Arts, students can use it to collaborate on a story and illustrate it. They can use it to highlight parts of speech in a passage, or to edit or proof read a passage. It can be use in math to demonstrate and practice problem solving before the entire class. In Science, it can be used to construct models of the solar system or the human cell system. In History, it can be used to create Jeopardy Review games that the whole class can enjoy. The SmartBoard makes learning and presenting a blast!
Another tool that is being used to enhance education is the Apple iPod. This slim mp3 player has been transformed, and now plays a wide range of audio and video files. While most people today would still consider it something used for entertainment, a group called the iDreamers at Georgia College and State University are becoming leaders in using the iPod to enhance education. The practice of using iPods to download class lectures is becoming increasingly common in most colleges and even secondary schools; however this group wants to fully utilize the appliance which they think can do so much more for education. Professors at this university are finding new and innovative ways to incorporate the iPod into their class, such as having students download movies or presentations on their own so they do not have to spend class time watching them. Other professors have made podcasts of common questions that students have, so that office hours are freed up for more important topics of discussion. Foreign language classes are using iPods to download conversations to practice understanding and pronunciation (eSchool). Many schools are trying to include the use of the iPods in their curriculum because they allow teachers to get information to students without using class time. Dorothy Leland, GCSU president said, "The more you free up your classroom for discussion, the more efficient you are” (eSchool).
Effective Technology Integration
Although there are many options for technology application in the classroom, the students’ advancement in learning is attributed to the effectiveness of the technology integration into the lessons. The “5W/ 5E” method described in the article Infusing Technology into any Instructional Program is an instructional strategy that can be used to effectively integrate technology into any lesson at any grade level/ content area. The 5W/ 5E model begins with the basic 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, and why) as applicable to the technology being used (Wathers). Before beginning instruction, the teacher should consider who the target audience will be, what technologies are available and are the most appropriate, when and where the technology integration will take place, and why the technology is being used. The 5 E’s address the most critical of the 5 W’s; the why. The model defines the why of technology integration as engagement, exploration, explanation, elaboration, and evaluation (Wathers). If a teacher uses this 5W/ 5E model prior to beginning use of technology for a lesson, the technology integration will occur in an organized and streamlined manner that will enhance student achievement.
With the amazing strides that technology has improved, who knows where technology will be in the future? If we compare how far the integration between technology and education has come, there is no way to tell how much further it will advance in the proceeding years. Just like twenty years ago when no one could have guessed that computers would be so widely available, we can not really tell what will be the next big thing. Some things that show our recent progress are distance learning and virtual reality. “Distance learning applied physical technology and education processes to serve the needs of students when they are removed from the source of instruction and resources by either time or distance” (Cavanaugh). Distance learning has become increasingly popular, to the point where people can now earn degrees online, sitting at home on the computer, while taking classes with students from all over the nation. In the future this is sure to expand even further, possibly becoming a way to communicate and learn with students from all over the world. Another new concept that is starting to become incorporated is the use of virtual reality in the classroom. Students who are in medical school for example, can practice techniques repeatedly and easily through virtual reality before they move on to a human subject. This learning technique is beneficial for lower level students as well, such as biology students who can virtually dissect animals; and this learning technique is being tested in the NICE Project, where elementary school students interact with a virtual landscape by growing and maintaining a garden (Johnson). New technology is being created all the time, and over the next few decades the devices and techniques used now will surely be replaced with something even more advanced and efficient.
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- Cavanaugh, C. (2001). The Effectiveness of Interactive Distance Education Technologies in K-12 Learning : A Meta-Analysis. (February 7, 2007) from http://www.unf.edu/~ccavanau/CavanaughIJET01.pdf
- eSchool News staff (March 27, 2006) Georgia school displays iPod ingenuity. (February 8, 2007) from http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=6211
- Interactive whiteboard. (2007, August 5). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 08:30, August 5, 2007, from 
- Johnson, A. (Decemeber 28, 1997). The NICE Project : Learning Together in a Virtual World. (February 8, 2007) from http://www.evl.uic.edu/aej/vrais98/vrais98.2.html
- Murray, C. (February 13, 2006) Technology helps rachet up math instruction. eSchool News Online. (February 8, 2007) from http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStoryts.cfm?ArticleID=6109
- Technology. (2007, February 9). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:42, February 10, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Technology&oldid=106723639
- Helen Hayes Hospital. CRT-Assistive Technology in Schools. http://www.helenhayeshospital.org/special_services/crt_asst_tech.htm#augmentative
- Wathers, W. (2004). Infusing Technology into any Instructional Program "5W/5E". VSTE Journal, 19(1). Retrieved February 11, 2007, from http://www.vste.org