2011 has come and gone, and tied to it were numerous stories related to education technology. E-readers and tablets like the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Apple iPad gained momentum, big-name universities offered even more free online classes, and the flipped classroom gained more attention. And while some ed tech predictions weren’t realized in 2011, this year shouldn’t be any less exciting.
I’ve talked a bit about education technology here, most recently on whether or not the rush to adopt it has moved too quickly. The reality, however, for Internet newbies and long-term users alike is that technology and learning are increasingly difficult to separate now. While schools like the Waldorf School of the Peninsula are still resistant to technology’s march, many more work to integrate it into curriculum. But education technology isn’t merely relegated to the school; even the simple act of going online to learn about new technologies highlights the role tech is playing in our learning.
That said, 2012 should continue to change how we use technology while learning, with experts already making bold predictions. Technology author Audrey Watters recently posted her list of 12 education tech trends to watch in the coming months, a list that includes important concepts like higher-quality interactive content and “social learning.”
“The ability for learners to connect with one another will be one of the most important trends of the coming year,” said Watters in her piece for MindShift. “This isn’t just a matter of connecting learners with online resources or with online instruction. Rather, one of the big opportunities will be to create a space in which learners can help and teach each other.”
With the recent news that students of online schools are lagging behind more traditional schools, it’s easy to wonder if the isolated, somewhat impersonal nature of an online course is at least partially to blame. While solid research into social learning over the Web is still needed, there are at least a few studies that indicate that learner-learner interaction is just as important as teacher-learner interaction in online programs.
At least one company is already betting on the importance of that interaction. Last week education start-up Piazza announced it had received a $6 million infusion to fund further research and development into its social learning platform. The start-up states that its service is “designed to connect students, TAs, and professors so every student can get help when she needs it — even at 2AM.” Similar efforts are sure to make headlines this year.
Another important area that Watters addresses is the consideration of high-speed Internet access to schools and how it may sadly get worse than better. She notes that while the U.S.’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recognizes the importance of high-speed Internet in schools and libraries, “even those schools with broadband access may find their resources strained in coming months.”
This topic was discussed here in September and again in November, addressing both the importance of broadband access to schools and the actions the FCC took last year to expand broadband access. The news also highlighted the Idaho Education Network and how despite its successes, funding cuts to the program have already forced some Idaho schools to reduce availability. This news highlights what is likely to be many more education cuts before 2012 ends, potentially leading to further reductions in tech investments at schools.
Despite the cutbacks, education technology will likely continue to be a hot topic this year as people from all walks of life take to the Internet and mobile devices to study, learn, and teach about our world. That very concept is what drives Learn the Net, a site utilizing technology to help you learn how to use it better. It’s also a reminder that education technology, while contentious, isn’t going anywhere. We may or may not see many changes this year, but ed tech’s importance will only grow.
Photo via Erin Lodes, Flickr Creative Commons
I read an interesting article a few days ago on the Campus Technology Web site about the basic infrastructure of learning facilities and how they’ll likely have to change for full adoption of technology.
“What I think we are confronting now is that the core infrastructure of higher education, that’s been built over the past several hundred years, is really becoming a barrier to innovation in terms of what technology potentially can do to improve teaching and learning,” said Josh Baron, Director of Academic Technology and eLearning at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.
Baron went on to say that without dedicated education technology leadership, many education facilities aren’t going to be able to adapt their infrastructures. Without solid leadership and direction, tech in schools may simply lead to “pure automation of teaching and learning to the point where it’s just people on computers memorizing facts,” he added.
I hinted at this failing while talking about the technology facade a few weeks ago. Operators of learning centers must consider having some sort of education tech leadership, whether it’s an internal or external candidate. Without that, deployment plans, curriculums, and training may be lacking or absent, causing the implemented tech to fail in purpose.
But are there consistent methodologies to be adopted to meet the tech challenge? Robert McLaughlin, who works for the New Hampshire Department of Education, has pondered the same question.
“Many people talk about how schools and preparation programs need to change dramatically to meet the needs of 21st century students, but there isn’t any consensus about what that really means,” McLaughlin, who was also the committee chair for the recently held New Hampshire invitation summit for educators, told the Examiner.
Teachers from all over New Hampshire participated in the summit with the hope of gaining a clearer picture of the problems they face. This large-scale, statewide approach is at least a first step in the right direction. But for every New Hampshire, there are plenty of other U.S. states and schools that aren’t as keyed in to the issues.
Do you find that the educators in your area are ready to deal with change? Do they seem to understand the driving factors that may very well change the basic infrastructure?
(Photo used under Creative Commons attribution license: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nesri/ / CC BY 2.0)
When I told my editor that I was going to write about GPS and the classroom this week, he half-jokingly asked me if it was going to be about “teachers tracking the whereabouts of students.” Well, he was partially correct.
The fact is that the fueled interest in GPS technology has brought prices down for people looking to invest in it. Additional advances such as integration with WIFI, Bluetooth, and radio, all on a single chip, means that cell phones and other mobile devices will be able to easily act as GPS devices. The tech can even be accessed cheaply using the USB port of a supported computer or mobile device. Educators have been quick to catch on that this affordability and portability makes GPS an interesting tool to include in the class curriculum.
GPS (which stands for Global Positioning System) has been around since 1978, when the first satellite was launched. The system was added to regularly until in 1994 there were 24 separate satellites, completing the intended “constellation.” Since then, replacements and updates have been planned and made at regular intervals. The constellation of satellites has served a plethora of uses for military, commercial, and independent entities around the world.
Educators have also gotten into the act, using GPS technology to teach a wide range of topics. At its roots GPS has numerous scientific principles which can be taught, including how physics and general relativity can be practically applied to it. When students first learn that there’s a minute but important time difference between the satellites and Earth-bound equipment, a wide array of responses and discussion typically evolves.
When teaching the science of it isn’t applicable to educators’ classes, then they still can turn to using GPS as a tool in a wide variety of geography, history, math, or science lessons and projects. Gerry Swingle, a high school science teacher in Arnold, Nebraska, has found a way to combine GPS with history and science, encouraging the creation of Web pages as part of a project-based approach to learning.
The EarthCache program offers another way for educators to include GPS into lessons and projects involving a variety of disciplines. “EarthCache sites … are ‘virtual’ caches that provide the visitor who finds them with new knowledge or insights about the location itself…” states the teacher’s guide. A person or group uses the EarthCache Web site to find caches that are accessible and uses a GPS device to track it down. “However, because they are meant to be educational, all EarthCache sites that are posted on the EarthCache Web site must provide some scientific information about the site,” states the guide.
Even debate and critical thinking skills can be enhanced when discussing the ethics of GPS tracking and monitoring. With some chronically truant students in Texas being forced to wear GPS trackers and other people fearing being tracked through their cell phones, there are plenty of issues to be debated about the ethics of GPS usage.
Educators and not-for-profits have been collecting a wide variety of lesson plans and curriculum suggestions for GPS in the classroom. Below are a few additional resources at your disposal. What other creative ways can educators use GPS in the classroom? Are there any additional online resources that you would suggest to educators and enthusiasts alike?
The GIS 2 GPS Portal: http://www.gis2gps.com/
This site is a one-stop shop for all things GIS (Global Information Systems) and GPS. They even have an extensive list of GPS-related lesson plans and materials for educators.
Linda Ferguson and the Geo Literacy Project: http://lovinfifth.com/gps/index.html
Ferguson has put together this site, explaining not only the educational theory behind GPS in the classroom, but also listing a wide variety or activities and lesson plans involving GPS.
(Photo used under Creative Commons attribution license: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aggie94_amy/ / CC BY 2.0)