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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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The Tools of Tomorrow: New Technologies in the Classroom

Mark Nichol

Editor / Writer

I'm not old, but I feel like a fossil when I remember taking a continuing-education course for teachers about computers nearly twenty years ago. Each of us was given one large, thin floppy disk after another, onto which, with guidance from our instructor, we took turns copying various low tech simulations and activities from the classroom's lone personal computer, a primitive and boxy IBM clone.

I was in the midst of an eighteen-month stint as a substitute teacher at the time and then had my own classroom for a few years after that, and during that period, I never saw a computer in a classroom, much less used one. My students never benefited from that stack of floppies, which I eventually threw away unused. (In my first job after I left teaching, I used a toaster-size but much friendlier Apple IIe, and I also learned an amazing new function called email.)

The most sophisticated technological application I used during my teaching career was the videocassette recorder. Imagine -- recording a televised science program or Reading Rainbow episode broadcast at an inconvenient time onto videotape and playing it for the class later! What will they think of next?

Those memories amuse me now, especially whenever I read accounts in our articles of students conducting online research, creating Web sites, maintaining blogs, assembling multimedia presentations, producing videos, engaging in instant feedback with classroom response systems, using global-positioning-system devices to acquire scientific data, and otherwise manipulating various technological equipment to acquire and record knowledge and understanding.

Every generation gets a turn at staring, goggle eyed, as younger people use remarkable tech tools as blithely as Captain Kirk flipped open his communicator (hello, cell phone!) and ordered Scotty to beam him up, and I smile when I think about what today's students will shake their heads at when they see their own children handling -- or perhaps remotely guiding -- gadgets and contraptions whose functions and abilities seem indistinguishable from magic.

Prognostication is perilous. Virtual reality so far has not fulfilled its early promise, and other technologies introduced in fact and fiction may not be ready for the marketplace for years to come, or ever. But it is exhilarating for me, even though I'm not a tech geek and I no longer teach, to ponder how the gap between technology available in the classroom and commercial products ubiquitous in the home and the office will narrow in the coming decades.

What gizmos have you heard about, or do you imagine, will be commonplace in the classroom of tomorrow? How will the paradigms of education be altered as technology enables students to be more self-directed and mobile in their learning? How easily will educators be able to adapt to an educational process predicated by ever-evolving tech tools? Please share your thoughts.

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Melissa's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My 10 year old daughter has to tutor me with certain aspects of technology. The sad part of this is that I consider myself somewhat computer-literate. I graduated with my bachelor's 15 years ago and computer use in the classroom was very limited. I know how essential it is to teach the students as much as we possibly can even as early as kindergarten or first grade. Unfortunately, in our school district, getting the technology is a slow process. The "media specialist" in our school is not as media savvy as she could/should be, so I can usually answer my own questions after some trial and error before she can. I am sure that someday, all classrooms will be utilizing computers with every subject. I would love to have the option to pilot some of these technology programs. There is so much to learn and discover for both the educator and the student. I agree with a previous post that the lack of professional development or interest in proves to be a problem. We have (as I'm sure all schools have) some teachers who are set in their old-fashioned traditional ways that they are not doing the students any service by ignoring the technology. These teachers probably still use filmstrip projectors. I am very interested in getting a Smartboard for my classroom. I asked our principal last year after attending a conference if he saw these being available to us in the near future, and he practically laughed in my face. Sad!

Tammy's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I graduated in 2000, and technology was a large part of every assignment. I was required to attend and pass the state technology classes and test, InTech.When I began working I was at a school in a rural area that had working TV's, VCR's and sometimes working computers. There was not a lot of funding for technology, even though many of us had the training, we had no way of using our new knowledge. After eight years I moved to another schol district and was overjoyed with the amount of technology available to me. I have (and use) 3 new Dell computers, an ActivBoard (with Activote), and a DVD player. On a daily basis I use United Streaming, Powerpoints, grading programs, we also use iparent, and our report cards are created electronically as well.It amazes me that I have this technology available to me and how much it increases my effectiveness as a teacher. I feel that my students are very tech savvy and this is because they are exposed to it every day. I cannot imagine teaching without the technology I currently have. I am looking forward to new technologies that we will be able to use in the future.

Jo-Ann W. Adams's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am interested in learning about how to use a promethean board in the art classroom (high school). I do not have one but would like to offer a good argument for how I would use one.

Meghan Charles's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have been teaching for 6 years and I have already seen a huge difference between the way I was taught in the classroom and the way teachers are now encouraged to teach. I remember sitting in my elementary classroom and listening to the teacher lecture as she wrote notes on the board. The biggest piece of technology when I went to school was a TV. Computers weren't even being manipulated much at that time. As I progressed through high school, learning how to use a typewriter was an important skill. When I entered college, that is when I really became familiar with email and other forms of distant communication. Although I didn't have the most high tech education, I still was able to come out of my schooling with much knowledge.

I am definitely all for new forms a technology and I can understand the educational benefits of it. The implementation of blogs allows students to interact and share knowledge with people from all over the world. With programs such as PowerPoint, students are able to be innovative and create projects related to their curriculum that can be shared with their peers. However, I wonder if using technology can be overstimulating to some children. There seems to be a huge surge of ADHD children at the present time and I continue to wonder why this is. In the classroom, many children seem to be unmotivated and disinterested in learning unless some sort of technology is involved. Is this because they are overstimulated at home with video games and such that they are unable to concentrate on something that isn't as attractive or hands on? If there is a correlation between the two, eventually we will have to find a happy medium. No matter what, technology will continue to enhance our children's education and future.

Joseph's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a student in Walden University taking a masters course in using technology in a classroom. This week we are discussing the use of technology to do things differently and to do different things. To do thing differently, for example, instead of having students performing decontextualized drill with workbooks, they were allowed to do it using computers; yet the core activity remained the same. Word processing replaced typewriters, and so on. On the other hand, we live in a world were we have the capacity to use technology to transform educational practice in ways that were impossible years ago. I am a high school Math teacher and I know that there are many different things I can do using technology in my classroom, but I do not have enough experience, and looking for a jumping off point. I hope someone can provide me with more ideas. Thank you.

Meghan Charles's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am in your same situation. I too am taking a Technology course through Walden (which is probably the same one you are in) and I am excited to learn more about how I can incorporate technology into the classroom. However, I feel very computer illiterate and need much guidance and assistance to do so. Hopefully we can all provide support to one another as we enhance our teaching practices.

amy belevice's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi!
You are so very true in every word that was written about technology. I am a student at Walden University and I think that this blogging is great! To be honest with you, I think it will take me a minute to catch onto, but I am enjoying it so far. Technology has so many branches to it! I am so glad to be a part of this technology generation and to be learning and sharing new ideas with my students! Thank you for the great input and I look forward to reading and sharing more!

stormy 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I also would consider myself computer literate,but It seems since Ive been taking my master's classes,I'm learning new things everyday. Blogging is new to me,and I have been trying to figure it out for the past week. I have an assignment to look at and reply to blogs that are of interest to me. I have found several that I would like to reply to,but once I post the comment I can't find my comment. I hope that it works this time. I am a certified teacher, but I don't have a classroom. I tutor and work 1:1 with students that struggle academically. These students seem to be more computer literate than I am. I am really interested in adding new programs to increase their study skills,reading skills etc. I have read about a program called fast forword. Has anyone heard anything about it? does it really work?
Thank You

stormy 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am also interested in the program fast forword for a few of my students that struggle with reading. I read the article,but I am still confused as to how the program actually works. I am not sure if the date of your comment is correct January 30,2008 .If this is correct and you posted this comment 1year ago, Have you tried the fast forword program. I am excited about this program, it seems like such a breakthrough.

Luis Martos's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

It is amazing to see all the new technology that we have at our disposal today. The students of this day and age have technology that seemed like they wear right out of silly sci-fi films of the past. The potential uses of these new technologies will benefit students and teachers many many ways. The technology has knocked down borders worldwide. The global community and economy now strive(except for the current financial crisis) because of it. It is our duty as educators to embrace not fear this new technology if we are to prepare our students and our children for the challenges that still lie ahead. As a teacher and father I want to learn as much as possible so that I can be more effective within the classroom. I want to give my students that chance to develop the 21st century skills that they will need to succeed.

I also want to protect and guide them. Along with all the benefits we all have seen the dangers that accompany new technology, not just for ourselves, but in particularly for our children. If we shy away from technology then we are losing an opportunity to be involved in the lives of children and students. The denial of technology is dangerous. Our students and children have been born into this new technologically advanced world. They are are surrounded by it and will have to use it. We a can teach them the how to be responsible and safe use these new tools. In order to do this we need to learn just like they do. Let's learn how to blog, wiki, create podcast and other multimedia.

Technology is not going away, it will continue to evolve. I for one can't wait to see want they think of next. Let's enjoy the ride.

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