Technology In The World Of Education

Last week a friend of mine received a big promotion at his job; he told me it was even mentioned on Wikipedia. When I shared this news with my nine-year-old son, he asked me what Wikipedia was. When I told him that it was ‘a type of online encyclopedia’, he replied, “What’s an encyclopedia?” Suddenly I felt really, really old.
Technology, like most things in our world, is in a state of constant flux: ever changing, growing, and evolving. The state of Iowa recognizes the value of technology in education and has developed curricular goals in the area of Technology Literacy. In order to keep up technologically, our district has been evolving, too. As a teacher and a parent, I see these changes firsthand. As a teacher, I have seen some big advances in my elementary school just this fall. First, our school went wireless over the summer. Every teacher was given a new laptop to replace her old classroom PC. As a small school district in the Midwest, I realize we are ‘behind the times’ on this update, but it is still making a huge impact. Just being able to take computers off the desk and around the classroom (not to mention around the school building for meetings/special activities) has been helpful.
Another new addition to our classrooms this year: ceiling-mounted projectors. These have been fantastic! I use mine several times a week for my preschool class and for my English Language Learners (ELL) program. Being able to connect my laptop to the projector means I can show DVDs, digital movies (I just made a class movie using Windows Movie Maker for our school’s Open House), power points–anything I can pull up on my laptop I can put on the wall. No more rolling in the media cart with the bulky television/VCR/DVD equipment that I have to share with three other classrooms. Just hook up the cable and play.
Along with the hardware updates, teachers have updated their teaching styles as well. Many have used FlipCams and digital cameras to take pictures/video of their students for tracking and documenting student progress. Technology is incorporated into lessons on a daily basis. Several teachers are sending their monthly parent newsletters online, while others have stopped doing newsletters and started doing blogs; they update the blogs frequently with upcoming dates for important events, news from the classroom, and photos/videos of recent classroom experiences.

Photo courtesy of Dell

What do these updates mean for kids? Teachers are bringing the world to their students like never before. My kindergarten ELL (English Language Learners) student stopped in the hall yesterday and looked at a display of pictures of children from around the world. “Which is from Australia?” he asked me; after I showed him, he asked which was from Denmark and which from Canada. I found out the kindergarten teachers have been taking their students on a trip around the world. They have learned about how children are living all around the globe. Imagine instead of old-school pen pals, being able to chat with a child from another country in real time?
Another exciting experience is just beginning for the children. New software to our district will allow children to record themselves reading a book and send the video anywhere via email. The recipient will be able to view the video, then record their own video reading to the child and send it back. This will be great for kids with parents deployed overseas or grandparents living across the country.

Photo courtesy of CDSessums

We have a lot more room to grow, but change has come and continues to spread through the world of education. As teachers, we do our lesson plans online, track our students’ grades/progress online, and take classes online to keep up with current teaching practices. Kids as young as kindergarten have regularly scheduled time in the computer lab and high school students take online college classes without ever leaving the high school campus. The overhead projectors have been moved into storage and will be auctioned off with other victims of the changing technological landscape at the end of this month. Somewhere in that pile of educational has-beens, among the cassette players and PC towers, there may just be a few encyclopedias, too.