Thursday, March 6, 2014

Blog Post #4

Technological Changes In Education

Teaching has changed a lot since I was in school. I am in my mid 30's and primarily went to school in the 80's and 90's. Not only has teaching changed but it has been influenced significantly by changes in technology. During my high school years, the PC was not the major commodity it is now. It was a luxury to even have a computer in your home so most people that I knew did not. I learned how to type on an electric typewriter and that was a big thing because it was electric. My first word processor was a Brother word processor and it worked primarily like a typewriter except for the fact that it did not print what you were typing until you were totally finished with a line (I believe). It was definitely advanced for my time. Computers were a thing of the future. The computer language C++ was extremely new and becoming a breakthrough in modern society. I learned how to program a computer using the language Basic and then I moved up to Cobol although engineers was using the high tech Pascal language. Computers were new, ingenious, expensive, and windows was just starting to become a big name at that time. That right there should tell you how much has changed but if you don't realize it yet, read on. The World Wide Web, now just WWW was also relatively new when I was in high school. Although scientists new there was a way to connect with individuals, basically through their studies and ARPANET, WWW didn't start to really take off until the mid 90's. "By January 1993 there were fifty Web servers across the world; by October 1993 there were over five hundred." (Raggett et al, 1996. p. 21) Thus, the history of the cloud is only really about 20 years old or so.
Picture of the 1975 ARPANET Map

Given a little history on how much technology I did not grow up using, we can begin to really discuss the changes as we see them today. Today, the cloud has become part of everyday education. If you don't have a computer in your home, you better have access to one. Many individuals over the age of 60 don't have computers or use them very little as part of their everyday lives. This is to no surprise to me so if your parents are older and you are a modern student, you better be able to convince them that you need this for success in school. But why the change? Why has technology become such a vital part of education? The answer lies in career availability. Not now, but in the future, we believe. Teachers and administrators alike realize or should realize that 20 years from now, our job market will be totally different and the only true way to try and prepare students for it is to keep them aware of technological changes and encourage them to look for and develop advancements that may be needed in the future.

Image of chairs in a circle and two computers in the middle with people coming out of the computer shaking hands
Project based learning appears to be the key, but who knows for sure how much this is preparing students for an unforecastable future. The things that I see as useful no matter what the future holds is that students are collaborating, exploring, and seeking out solutions to problems that they discover. As long as the earth exists, people will need to know how to work together, people will discover new things about where they live, and there will always be problems that need to be resolved. These important life tools are being learned by Mr. Capps 3rd graders and I am sure they are being learned by the students of other proponents of project based learning. That is definitely a good thing but what happens to those students that aren't receiving this same type of education? Are they being left behind in a society where No Child is Left Behind or does it not really matter what tools they are using as long as they are learning the same things? To sum it up, you cannot be learning the same thing if the playing field is not the same for all. Those students that have the tools (including teachers) that are willing to explore, do more with technology and demand (gracefully) that their students really learn are the students that will be creating the future. The rest, although not totally behind because they still have access to technology, will likely be the ones working for those students who had the insight to know and create a future that will "hopefully" benefit society. But, who knows if they will need workers. Robots are constantly being developed and are becoming more and more advanced. You need to be the creator and then your robot will do what you want it to do, thus possibly foregoing the need for a human worker. Students are still being left behind!!!

Based on what I know about technology, the primary question that comes to mind when using PBL (Project Based Learning) is: Is it too much autonomy for such young children? Children usually need direction. Are the proponents of PBL providing enough direction for their students? The answer is simple. Are the students learning, really learning what their teachers really want them to learn? If so, they have been given enough instruction or direction. If not, maybe their approach needs to be revisited as they reflect on where they may have gone wrong. After reviewing the videos and listening to Mr. Capps, it is clear that his students are learning what he intended for them to learn, in fact, they are learning more than he expected thus showing us as teachers that children are capable of so much more absent limitations that may exist in today's society.

Classroom full of kids using different forms of technology in their educational experience
Still, there exists some reluctance among me and others who did not grow up using this modern technology. I see the usefulness of it but also question the safety of even search engines like iCurio, which is a dedicated search engine for children. Who's to say that one persons view of what is ok for their child, is ok for all children? While some people don't have problems with the music and entertainment industry that exists today, there is a lot I try to limit my children's exposure of. But, on iCurio and other search engines dedicated to children's research, the editors may believe that some things are ok to view or hear as long as it is not showing too much or saying what society feels is inappropriate. So, for this reason you really have to search and search and then determine what is ok for your child because it may be different than what somebody else believes. A prime example of this was the student that couldn't do the Afghanistan project like the rest of their class because of their father's objection. To Mr. Capps it was perfectly fine but to the parent it was not. This will continue to happen but as teachers, we just need to learn how to be flexible.

I've researched some appropriate 12th grade ACCR Standards for writing an essay like this and they include, but are not limited to:
1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. [W.11-12.1]
2. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences. [W.11-12.3]
3. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. [W.11-12.4]
4. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information. [W.11-12.6]
All of these standards are useful and should be used by anyone in a graduate or undergraduate program. These are basics that show what a writer's intentions are and how the writer can validate their statements.

Finally, I would like to close by stating these few things. I believe Project Based Learning (PBL) will be a great tool for students at any level. It will teach students to use their own brain and not just rely on what they are told. I believe it will be a while before all teachers are open to using technology in a way that enables and supports PBL, thus students will still be left behind. If the WWW can grow like it did in 20 years, who knows what will happen in the next 20 years with such extreme advancements in technology. We will all find out, so be prepared!

Raggett, Dave; Lam, Jenny; Alexander, Ian (1996) HTML 3. Electronic Publishing on the World Wide Web
Bice, Thomas R (2013) 2013 Revised Alabama Course of Study: English Language Arts


  1. Thorough. Thoughtful.

    It will be an interesting next 20 years to see if we are on the right track. I think we are. If not ….

    And for those who are not (if we are right)? We all should worry about them!

    Excellent! Thanks.

  2. Ramsey,
    I understand how you have seen technology change since you were in school. When I was in high school, having a cell phone was a luxury. Who would have guessed that just 15 years later that the cell phone would be a commodity and would allow people to access the internet at anytime! I agree with you that PBL is a great tool for producing better thinkers in our students, but in order for that to happen, it has to start at a young age. I think PBL can be used with young students as long as the teacher plans well, and allows themselves to be available to guide the students. Great post! I like that you ask lots of questions to make your readers think.