Professional Educators of Tennessee are uncompromising advocates for more effective schools. Because we now live in a technology-based world, we believe in the smart use of technology in the classroom to facilitate student engagement is no longer optional. The use of online education and technology can also effectively address the age-old problem of having students on various levels in the same classroom and allow for the simplified creation of personalized learning plans. Technology is now a critical component in the public education process.
We have gone from images on cave walls to smart boards. In between, we have had chalk boards and white boards. Some may even argue that smart boards are already on their way out. Whatever technology is in the classroom, none of the emerging technologies will ever be a substitute for a classroom teacher guiding students in discovery, creativity, and learning. The culture of students and/or educators working together in collaborative fashion is also irreplaceable.
There is no denying that the integration of technology in the classroom has changed public education, as well as the manner teachers and students use it in the classroom. Much of the discussion of educational technology is done with little to no basis in reality---for example, without consideration of the lifespan of that technology or a blueprint for use of that technology. Purchasing a computer or software cannot be a “one and done” philosophy.
As educators, and as an association, we understand that questioning basic assumptions and asking difficult questions are what education leaders are expected to do. We should regularly analyze advantages and disadvantages of the benefits and growing dependence on technology in the classroom, workplace and society as a whole.
There are pros and cons regarding technology in the classroom. Technology assists education by providing an effective way to get instant information. Technology makes it possible to teach the same concept/standard in different formats that will appeal to various learning styles. Technology expands the amount of robust content across multiple subject areas that can be delivered. Technology can make learning fun and therefore lead to increased student attendance and participation.
However, technology can act as an impediment to education as well. All is not equal with technology. Some students have unlimited access to computers and internet at school and home while others have very little to none. According to the Connected Tennessee’s 2013 Residential Technology Assessment, more than 238,000 school-age children in Tennessee still do not have broadband access at home. Additionally, funding isn’t consistent across schools, districts, and states.
The technology infrastructure varies widely from urban to rural areas. How can you create a technologically-based curriculum for all if all do not have access to computers/software/broadband? How do you make sure the teachers are trained on the ever changing apps and software that are available? And if you have a school where most every student has a device, how do you make sure each student stays on task and their data is safe?
What does the future hold for technology and public education? Regardless of the obstacles, we must press on with the integration of technology and education. An enhanced focus must be placed on insuring our teachers and leaders are given the tools to learn critical technologies that are part of a digital native’s everyday life. We must work together to create technology blueprints that outline strategies and highlight implementations that lead to improved outcomes.
In the future, technology will most likely include more interactive e-textbooks and e-readers. Online reading material, including original sources and supplemental resources, will continue to expand. Education applications and online learning will continue to improve and reach students that in the past may have been unreachable. Student and teacher interaction across borders will allow us to explore learning in completely new and exciting ways. Existing technology will continue to advance and new innovations will explore educational possibilities that we have never imagined.
MIT Professor Erik Brynjolfsson observed that: “Instead of racing against the machine, we need to learn to race with the machine.” This means we have to be prepared to have the discussions and be willing to learn each and every day to effectively use technology in our classrooms. The future is now for schools, districts and communities across the nation.
Joseph Dulaney and Bethany Bowman
Joseph Dulaney is a technology expert and senior account executive with AWE in Nashville. Bethany Bowman is director of Professional Development for Professional Educators of Tennessee.