The education provided to children helps them to grow up to be scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and philosophers. They dream up, invent, discover, and create the innovations in society and technology that are used to educate the next generation. Since the late 20th century more and more of those technologies have involved computers and the internet. We talked to Kelly Walsh about the convergence of technology and education, and ways that parents, teachers, and children can learn to profit from modern tools and methods.
US: You’ve got a strong background in information technology, and are comfortable with the “cybertools” that are becoming an increasingly bigger part of everyday life. However, not everyone has that advantage. What’s the first thing that parents and teachers – and even children – need to do to learn how to best use the 21st-century technology available to them?
KW: Well, obviously spending time with these tools is essential in order to become comfortable with them. Kids these days tend to be so connected with tech, it’s kind of hard to avoid. Social uses are often their first exposure, and it’s important to use that as an opportunity to start conversations about how these tools can be used to look up information and support learning, make it easier. Tutorials from the Khan Academy are a great example of the vast array of resources out there to help kids learn. This is a great way to put these tools to use constructively.
US: Not only are technology tools being used more in classroom settings, there’s also a need to have students graduate with the knowledge of how to use them in many employment sectors. How can schools address both sides of this issue?
KW: The exposure in the classroom raises the comfort level and familiarity and sets the stage for more in depth and career relevant learning. It is important that high schools and higher education courses discuss and focus on ways that businesses use these tools. At The College of Westchester (where I work as CIO), I just started teaching a section of one of our core courses, which focuses directly on this. By making this a required part of our first term curriculum, students are going to get this exposure early on and carry it with them throughout their degree program. We consistently build opportunities to use these tools in the ways that business uses them in our curricula – office productivity, presentations, product and service research, collaboration, and so on.
US: What is “flipped instruction,” and how does a “flipped classroom” work?
KW: Flipped instruction is the idea of changing how you use class time by pushing more of the routine teaching and learning outside of the classroom. By making learning content consumable in a digital format, students can consume it at their own pace and review they might struggle with, and also get reinforcement when they want it. Moreover, this allows teachers and students to use class time in more constructivist learning modes, getting hands on, interacting, and identifying and address learning gaps. There is more to it, but that’s the basic idea. Teachers should know that they can ease into this, and that the tools and techniques used are just that – tools to help them teach. It doesn’t require a radical change in the way they approach an entire course. My new Flipped Classroom Workshop in a Book and the online workshops I run help teachers get up to speed and build a plan to introduce flipped teaching techniques at a pace of their choosing.
US: Have you found resources and techniques that are particularly suited to helping students learn English skills like spelling?
KW: I’ve seen lots of resources – online sites and tools, plenty of apps, online services and so on. I am not immersed in this particular area, so I don’t have a lot of experience with it. I recall that we published this article not too long ago on EmergingEdTech, which shared 15 apps that can help with the teaching languages. The Internet and the phone and tablet app world offer so many good resources to help with language skills, many of which are free or very low cost.
US: What do you think is the future of technology in the classroom? And will there even be classrooms in the future?
KW: I believe there will always be classrooms, both physical and virtual. The interaction with passionate, inspired teachers is essential to rich learning and will always play a role in good quality education and in achieving the best learning outcomes. This can happen online and of course it has been happening face to face in physical classrooms for centuries, and I have no doubt that this will continue in various forms even as online learning becomes increasingly common.
The future of technology in the classroom is about a higher degree of embracing richer integration. As the evidence continues to come in showing that properly leveraged technologies can have a clear impact on engagement, grades, retention, degree completion, costs, and more, educational institutions will continue to improve on how they leverage the resources available through these emerging education technologies. It begins with awareness, robust planning and professional development, so that’s a good starting point for those wanting to get ahead of the curve. Of course, subscribing to articles from EmergingEdTech and other education technology blogs can go a long way to help!