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Tablets, digital media coming to a school near you

17 Sep

I have been covering the intersection of technology and education recently, and have interviewed some amazing people at the forefront of the changing classroom.

One of them was Hans Aagard, senior technologist at Purdue University, Indiana. I was intrigued by that university’s approach –plunging in with a social networking application called Hot Seat. It is being used not just on campus, but in the classroom, while the lecture is in progress.

But yes, we are running into mixed signals.

  • While some teachers get their students to create content for topics that have been poorly covered or badly written in Wikipedia, many schools ban on students using Wikipedia.
  • A 2010 survey found that 62.7 percent of US undergraduates surveyed say they owned an Internet-capable handheld device, but many universities have signs posted outside lecture halls about turning off cell phones and electronic devices.
  • Faculty worry that too many screens in class could be distracting to the student and to others, while some high schools have made tablets and laptops integral to the learning experience.

More on this soon. My article was just published in a Sept-Oct issue of Communication World magazine.

So it was a pleasant surprise to see the subject “What Will School Look Like in 10 Years?” taken up in the New York Times  last week. I was particularly interested in the comment by David Silvernail, dir. at the Center for Education Policy, Applied Research and Education. He would rather schools invest in small amounts of technology …to teach students process skills, not just plunking shiny objects in their backpack and expecting them to automatically become smarter. Is he swimming upstream?

I have to admit I have mixed feelings on this.

I teach a robotics class in elementary school. For the past few classes I have been driving  home the importance of research. Finding solutions to problems they never knew existed.  I send them off to encyclopedias, dictionaries and other print material -on purpose. I could easily get them to log on to computers and search –there are more than 20 PCs in the room! But that would be too easy. I don’t want to hold up a think-outside-the-box mantra for problem solving and stick them in front of a… box!

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