Tech has become indispensable in education

Technology has changed the way we live and — with increasing frequency — the way our youngest generations are learning.

Once the domain of No. 2 pencils, heavy textbooks and green chalkboards, school classrooms are now augmented by devices that can put a library at students' fingertips or a global classroom in their palms.

"These tools allow us to see the start of a radical evolution in education that will bring such dramatic changes that we'll soon be at a point where we won't be able to imagine education without them," wrote Steve Hargadon, a lecturer from California on social media in education.

Here's a look at the ways classroom technology is being used, and how it could bode for future generations.

Gadgets

Desktop computers in every classroom? That's so 2000!

With schools like Clearwater High distributing more than 2,000 Kindles to students last week, experts say an array of devices will continue to proliferate in classrooms.

"Part of what the Web has done is turn the world of information into a conversation," Hargadon said.

Collaboration

One of the greatest advances in education, some experts believe, is collaborative Web tools like blogs and wiki-type sites that allow students to not only be information consumers, but creators.

In Pasco County, for example, teachers have been tapping into the world of social networking for more than a year through Moodle, a password-protected online system that allows students to share files and notes in a single Web-based environment.

"You sit in a row of chairs, silently obedient. Those were the success characteristics of my generation," Hargadon said. "Now … they want you to be proactive in conversations."

Games

Video games can be addictive. Why can't learning?

In Hillsborough County, groups of students are using SMART Tables to play educational games. Students literally put their hands on the rugged touchscreen to simultaneously open files, manipulate images and do collaborative activities.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Education Arcade has already developed several games for classroom use. One 3-D multiplayer game called Revolution promises much more than Oregon Trail did in the 1990s: "Set in 1775, on the eve of violent revolt in the colony of Virginia, the game gives students an opportunity to experience the daily social, economic and political lives of (Williamsburg's) inhabitants."

The U.S. Department of Education's 2010 National Education Technology Plan acknowledges that video games have much untapped potential to "help engage and motivate learners."

Multimedia

Morning announcements are no longer a crackling voice over the loudspeaker.

For years, schools have been using desktop video editing suites to put together morning announcement TV broadcasts. Now, some schools even offer daily announcement podcasts for absent students.

Last year, Shady Hills Elementary School in Hernando County lowered the age threshold for multimedia devices in the classroom by buying 80 iPods for students to use to listen to audiobooks.

Research

School librarians across the country assist students in online database searches alongside the computer book catalogs that have been around for decades. The way students research projects has changed.

While education has benefited tremendously from the Internet, instant access to everything also has a dark side. According to plagiarism.org, an antiplagiarism website: "Educators today are challenged by a teen culture of online permissiveness and have growing concerns about plagiarism."

Virtual world

Researcher Clayton Christensen predicted in his 2008 book Disrupting Class that by 2020, half of all students will learn remotely from platforms like the successful Florida Virtual School program.

Last year, Florida Virtual School, which is fully accredited in the state, served 97,000 students, according to its website.

Times staff writer Tom Marshall contributed to this report.

Tech has become indispensable in education 09/19/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 21, 2010 5:18pm]

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