Modern technologies and education
Note: Written in 2007, it’s interesting to look back at old perspectives!
Modern technologies allow for two things: communication and information is the most known part and originates the name TIC, but further than that, modern technologies are the build material that compose satellites and robots. More then information alone, TIC can be converted into acts, and the combination of these allow for completely new education standards.
So far, education systems are being criticized more and more, although they worked fine before, and people try to go back to the old system. That is where they got everything wrong. It is time for education and schools to mutate along with the society, to guide children to the future instead of being a link to the past.
The future school should not focus so much on learning specific informations, like who build the first light bulb. Certainly a level of general knowledge can be maintained, but instead of giving the children the information and asking them to learn it by heart, it would be much more adapted to teach the children how to interact with the world and find out those kind of things on their own. They could for instance look it up in books or on the net and present it as a small project.
New technologies allow for easier and more efficient communication, including with distant people. Math can be learnt by letting children program small toy robots for example (lego has quite some cool stuff out there). Simulation can be used to understand biological, chemical or physical processes.
Languages can be taught through communication over the world, and international school projects or use of adapted software in other language. Aside from the educational content that educative software, games and tools can provide, they also allow for a higher motivation and implication of the children in the knowledge they acquire.
One point that is preventing the changes from taking place currently are the teachers, who are afraid of being replaced by machines. those are fear of the unknown more than real risks. An adult will always be needed to teach the children. It is the role of the adult that will change.
The teacher will still organize the education and present the topics and process in which knowledge will be acquired, but as children will be able to be more autonomous for learning and looking up information, the teacher will be able to focus on guiding and providing help and explanations to the children.
With other words, the teacher will have more time available for personalized help instead of focusing on teaching to as many as possible within a limited time. Some children will be able to handle things themselves and will need few help and maybe even be able to explain a few things to the others. Children that present more difficulties with learning specific problems will benefit from additional attention and advices from the teacher, and therefor be able to develop their skills too.
At some level, this might help against eh two extremes that are met i some schools: either pulling the class forward and dropping the less skilled to the point they can not catch up anymore with the others, or on the contrary, lower the level of the whole class to make it possible for the slowest elements to still follow the courses.
This requires though to introduce teachers to those new technologies when they are not at ease with it, which can be hard for some of the older folks who feel lost in front of those new devices. However, this would be a small investment, compared to all the teachers that are currently still taught the old and obsolete ways, and how to prevent them from changing (if i caricature it a bit :p)
Technologies are a center of interest for most children nowadays and they know it sometimes better then the teachers. As such, using them will put the children in a familiar environment and draw their interests on the lesson’s content, as well as raise their motivations. I will come back later on the motivation point, as i will do this year’s research project about “the influence of the multimedia format on student’s motivation to learn”
Moreover, the technology allows to mix up different topics in a concrete way that makes sense and shows more of the use of information, which children often are heard complaining about, when they don’t find something interesting: usually they don’t even see the point in what they are learning, as they cannot imagine any applications for daily life of, for example, some geometry exercises. By incorporating small amounts of information within projects of different sizes and levels, they will see a point in doing the work they are asked to, and will hopefully learn the pleasure of learning.
Another point that is holding back this evolution is the decision of the industry to keep prices constant so far, whereas they could decide at some point that the technology is enough, and focus on making efficient and accessible for all learning material. There is a start to that direction currently with the low cost ultra portable computers aka netbooks.
The main problem with netbooks is that as their name mentions, they are formatted to be at best a web browser and although creative features can still be used, it is harder to access or install them on such devices – they really aren’t optimised for other uses then information gathering and treatment, which is a shame knowing what could be offered to children at lower costs.
The evaluation method would also need to be adapted, but could be judged from the results of the projects that have been done, and the work that has been provided for each of those. At a time where certificates are being conformed between different countries (although it still seems to me, as a student, that the similar diplomas are given for completely different abilities and knowledges, even just within my own country), it might be a weird idea to have a broader variety of topics and teaching methods used. it will make things more complicated when it comes to comparing studies done in different countries.
Still, that should not be a problem, because what children would learn would be more of techniques and ways to adapt themselves to various situations, rather than a list of facts that someone judged to be important, and that ten years later will be forgotten completely anyway (as if i remembered who created the first “printer” – all those TV-games that put in competition adults and children about general culture topics taught at school just proves how useless it is.
Well, this is just a small digression on what the future could be made of: children learning history by making comics, learning math with simulation games – a higher level of the analogy with buying bread at the bakery – learning idioms with adventure games, helping each other about the use of the computer, getting a liking of writing by creating a documentation about their favorite show in a foreign language for other children to discover in a different country. All tools are available, communication, informative, collaborative creation, simulations, small animations, videos, presentations, archives, interactive exercises, they just are waiting for one thing : a proper use.