“Technology in the Classroom”
Part 1 — The Need for Technology
No matter how much we may try to ignore it or suppress it or complain about it, one major fact remains in the modern classroom — students just aren’t the same today as they once were.
The times have changed, and students have changes with them. Where as twenty-five years ago you would be hard pressed to find a student with a cellphone, nowadays you would be hard press to find a student without a cellphone. Twenty-five years ago, personal computers were big, slow, and expensive, and it was likely that most students had never seen one, let alone played with one. These days, students carry smart-phones, iPods, and all manner of “portable computers” in their pockets.
Let’s face it — technology has become ubiquitous and the threads of our very lives are now interlaced with copper wiring and our thoughts have become intertwined with a digital stream of 1s and 0s.
It used to be that the classroom was a place where the teacher would stand up and share the knowledge he or she had to a group of serious, dedicated, and focused learners. They would take notes, they would study books, they would ask questions (though more so in western societies). Students were used to receiving input face-to-face and through the printed page. Students had to learn how to take notes, organized enough so they could review and study the materials later. Students had to read and study heavily outside of the classroom. The teacher was seen more as the “one elevated by knowledge and understanding”, while the students were the ones who desires to become elevated through the ingestion and digestion of knowledge.
While the quantity of information presented in the classroom has increased over the years, the thought patterns and skills inherent to the learner have changed considerably and teaching methods that once worked well no longer serve us well. At one time in history, the classroom was alive, vibrant, and electric – students were hungry for knowledge and understanding. But now it’s increasingly becoming an uphill battle to get information across to the students.
We have these difficulties because the modern student has left old learning methods behind and unknowingly embraced new and unique methods of interacting with information and ideas. Students today have been born and raised in the “Information Age” , and they have been raised with the understanding that ANY piece of information can be searched for, obtained, and read within seconds. They have also been raised in an environment where they can share information among a large groups of friends quickly and effortlessly.
All of these changes brought about by the “Information Age” has led to a degradation in the modern student’s ability to concentrate for long periods of time, and it has also had a negative influence on their ability to think deeply, thus fostering an increased reliance on the “instant” transfer of mostly superficial information.
Modern technology has not only affected students’ ability to concentrate, but it has also changed the manner in which they naturally receive information. While they have become adept with keyboards and screens, they are losing the ability to identify and extract information from spoken input – In short, they are becoming more and more visually-centered in their learning and less and less auditory-centered. They get lost more easily in lectures — not because they cannot understand, but because they find it increasingly more unnatural to concentrate on a long stream of auditory input.
And so, we teachers have a new challenge on our hands. Not only are we challenged to take deep and difficult information and present it in a clear, engaging, and understandable way, we are now challenged to present this same information in a new way more attuned to the modern student’s “natural input methods”.
The new classroom promises to look vastly different from the simpler days of blackboard, chalk, and pointer. And in the next part of this four-part exploration of technology in the classroom, I will take a closer look at the changes that need to be made in the classroom to begin connecting more effectively with the iGeneration of students.