Is technology leaving kids behind?

October 5, 2011 at 10:21 am | Posted in Education | Leave a comment
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I have just read this post (Is education technology doomed?) on Edudemic.com. In it, it suggests that by pushing the barriers in education with using technology we may be leaving kids behind. Kids from families that cannot afford high-end computers/tablets/mobile phones and connections to the internet. In essence, this is true. These families are disadvantaged. However, I think, instead of seeing this as a problem that means educating kids in this way is not a good idea (I don’t believe that is what the post was saying, but it could be read into it), we need to look at ways to overcome this problem so that we can continue to bring our education systems/practices into the world of today.

A couple of years ago, I bought an old computer for about $12. This included the monitor, keyboard, mouse and CPU. It was definitely not a high-spec computer. It wouldn’t run the latest version of windows on it. It wasn’t fast and it didn’t have a large hard-disk. I installed Ubuntu Linux on it, and it ran like a dream. How much did Ubuntu cost? Nothing. What came with it? A stack of different programs to do pretty much anything you wanted! And I could download many more free programs.

Why am I writing about this? I’m wanting to get across the idea that perhaps schools need to re-evaluate what technology they use. No, not everyone can buy the latest computer with the most up-to-date software on it. But, I could do just as much on the computer that cost me $12 as I could on my $1000 desktop PC. The physical machine wasn’t as flash, but it worked, and worked well. If schools could consider these types of options (and I know this is happening already), then technology can become more accessible to those who cannot afford it.

As for the internet. Well, the cheapest dial-up plans I know of in New Zealand are about $10 a month. Not too difficult for most to scrape up. Yes, I know not everyone will be able to, but many can. I also no that dial-up is not great for watching videos etc online, however a lot of other things can be done. Remember also, that if you’ve never had the internet before, then dial-up is a lot faster than nothing! I spent many years on a dial-up connection quite happily. It’s hard to go back, but to move forward from no connection, dial-up is fine.

The cheapest broadband plan I know of in NZ is about $25 a month. Again, quite a few people will be able to find this in their budget.

So, my suggestion is that schools think about their clientele – their students and families. What can they access? What can they afford? Come up with a plan or strategy that will benefit those families where they are now. Perhaps you decide as a school to use open source (or free) software only. Perhaps you partner with computer firms to get good deals for your school and students? Perhaps you buy a few cheap computers with Linux installed and loan them to families?

Don’t give up on technology because not everyone has access. Work with your Board and community to find a way forward for all involved.

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It’s not the technology’s fault!

April 29, 2011 at 10:06 am | Posted in Education | 3 Comments
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<Warning: This post is a bit of a rant…>

It is not the technology’s fault. The technology did not create cyber-criminals. Technology did not create bullies. Technology did not create pornography. Technology did not ruin education.

We live in the 21st century. It is an age of technology. We have TVs, computers, gaming consoles, PDAs, netbooks, tablets, iPads, iPods, mobile phones, smartphones, GPS, Internet, Wi-Fi and more. Yet I keep hearing from some people that technology is bad for education!

What??? Give me a break!

The technology did not just jump into an educator’s hand and say ‘use me, use me!’ The educator saw a device and chose to give it a go to help educate.

Technology is not bad for education… Poor use of technology is bad for education. Poorly designed learning tasks using technology is bad for education.

For example, you cannot just say, ‘I’m going to get my class to blog’. You need to plan it. You need to decide why you want your class to blog; what they are going to blog about; what the purpose of the task is. You then need to learn how to blog yourself. You may learn this alongside your students, but I would suggest that if you want your class to blog, then perhaps you should be blogging too. It would be good to at least know the basics of blogging first – how to set up a blog; how to write a blog post; choosing appropriate tags etc.

Keeping with the blog idea, how useful would a blog be for students who struggle to write, or perhaps cannot write using a pen/pencil? These students may thrive in front of a netbook, where they can control what is being put on the screen. They can see and edit easily without the need to mess up their work or feeling embarrassed as they need to start again.

How many jobs now require the use of technology? Computers, mobile phones etc. My guess (and it is just a guess) is probably about 95% of them. Yet we have people against using technology to educate our students?

I’ll be the first to say that technology is not the be all and end all of education. A good teacher can out-do technology any day. But I would argue that a good teacher should also now be trying to embrace technology, and encourage its use within the classroom. Teach students how to use it wisely. Demonstrate how to interact in a socially acceptable way over the internet. Help them to critically analyse information they have found to see if it is authoritative and useful.

If teachers don’t embrace technology, who is going to teach students about cyber-safety? Who will teach them to conduct themselves appropriately as well-rounded citizens of the 21st century?

Education has focused in the past on reading, writing and arithmetic. It still is now. Is this a bad thing? No. We still need students to be literate and numerate. But this is not just about pen and paper any more. It is about digital literacy. Being able to use the tools that we have to solve complex problems. We have to make sure our students are ready for this.

School leaders and Boards of Trustees need to embrace this. They need to encourage the use of technology in the classroom. It doesn’t have to be for everything! But the reality is that we live in a technological age, where more and more advanced technology is being developed daily. We have to prepare our students for life in this age!

Early Childhood Education & Technology

June 6, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Posted in Education | 2 Comments
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It was very interesting to read this article from Stuff.co.nz today about early childhood education providers using Nintendo Wii and Skype in their centres. This was especially interesting after reading a blog post from Educational Origami about what age was appropriate for children to be using social networking.

In the article we are seeing technology being used in early childhood centres in a way that promotes both education and exercise. The Nintendo Wii is a very useful piece of technology that can get kids moving, especially in the wet winter days that we are getting at the moment. My sister, who lives in Australia, bought a Nintendo Wii for her children for this reason – keeping her kids active during the very hot summer days where it is sometimes better to stay inside an air-conditioned room. I must admit, that right now I would love for our family to have a Wii, as our kids are getting a bit crazy with all this rain! Of course the other good aspect of the Nintendo Wii at this age is that it helps build motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

The kids were using Skype also to video call other kindergarten children around the world! Well, in my view that is absolutely fantastic! The kids are getting a grasp of technology, able to learn about other cultures, countries and possibly languages. They get to meet new and different people and getting to make at least a little sense of the world!

All of this interaction is being closely monitored and it needs to be. As the article suggests there are critics of these schemes however we really do need to look at both sides of the situation. There is some good teaching and learning to be done with this technology. I would certainly be happy for my children to be experiencing this sort of learning at kindergarten or school. And just like everything, it needs to be balanced. It should not totally replace other activities.

One bonus for educators in primary and secondary schools is that the students themselves will already have started to learn about cyber safety and privacy.

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