A question asked by many educators as our society moves toward a more technology based experiences: do computers belong in the classroom and what role should technology play in the learning experience?
When I was in grade school, all of our lessons were lecture based. The highest form of technology was an overhead projector on which my teacher would handwrite problems so we could see more easily. Starting in 4th grade, we would have computer class once a week where we would learn how to navigate educational games like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego with a mouse; there was no keyboarding involved. In 7th grade, we were required to take a keyboarding class before school for one month. Those were the olden days.
- Students have computer class in Kindergarten.
- By 3rd grade, most students are fully capable when using a computer.
- Smartboards are being used rather than projectors.
- Elementary school teachers make powerpoint presentations to show their class as they lecture.
- Many students now have never even seen an overhead projector.
- Rather than worksheets, students are given webquests.
- Teachers use classroom computers to take students on ‘virtual fieldtrips’ for a fraction of the price of going on a real fieldtrip.
The list goes on. College life is even more amazing, technologically speaking.
- Teachers give their cell phone numbers to students saying to text them if they need anything.
- I am taking a completely online class – lectures are powerpoint videos with voiceover, group projects are assigned and must be completed via a ‘group message board’. Online time is recorded and graded for class attendance (4 hours per week online time is required). Tests are given and returned with markings by using Microsoft Word. It is just amazing.
- I am taking an Introduction to Writing Arts class and the professor has a twitter (I didn’t even know what Twitter was until 2 months ago), created his own website for our class, all of our readings are scanned (password protected) and able to be read and printed via the webpage (costs a lot in paper/ink but no books needed to be purchased), one of our assignments was to create this blog, we watched youtube videos and visited a blog about an orange cat for homework, and I was asked to show my facebook in class last night.
- I register and pay for all of my classes online.
- I have not yet spoken to my advisor or anyone in my department face-to-face or on the telephone, I have only spoken to them via my Rowan email account.
Obviously, this list goes on and on as well. We are moving into a day and age that most things are technology based.
As a future teacher, I see the endless possiblities available to the teacher who incorporates technology into their lessons. Children should learn to navigate a computer because it’s now a necessary skill. My main theme across all areas of my life is this: moderation. Don’t eat too much, don’t drink too much, don’t let your kids watch too much tv, and don’t require too much technology use with your students. If you’d like to assign webquests, you should send a survey home asking about availability of computers and computer literacy. If 6/20 students do not have computers in their homes then maybe a webquest is not the best idea; a paper quest is a good alternative. I always worry about the child in my classroom who will not have the same access or ability as the other students.
When I was 10, my family bought our first computer. This was before many other families even thought to buy a computer. For background information, it was one of those really big and clunky computers that only ran off of MSDos and floppy disks; it took 10 minutes just to type in the code to open one program. Prior to buying our first computer, I don’t even know where the closest computer would have been; there weren’t any in our library and our family only had one car (and it went to work with my dad every day). I wonder now, if computers were as used then as they are now, what would my family have done if I were assigned a webquest? I can picture my mother’s heartbreak. Although most families do have a family computer, there are going to be students who do not and are like I was: completely unsure of what to do.
I do find powerpoints and smartboards and many other technologies useful because they provide a well-rounded lesson that is easier to create than writing notes on the board for students to copy. I do suggest to be careful assigning work that uses technology outside of the classroom. If many students don’t have access to a computer/printer/internet connection, try assigning paper based work and try to provide students with as much access to computers as you can; ask for extra time in the computer room, ask for approval to walk your class to the town library to use computers, do whatever it takes to give your students a great education – just don’t leave anyone behind.
I’ll leave you with a video and ask the question: is this this the future for all our children?