Teachers today find themselves in a very precarious position, possibly more so than in any other time in the history of education. The rapidly changing landscapes of technology, education, and society in general has created a need for a new breed of teacher. Technological advances have rendered old methods, tools, and attitudes toward education nearly obsolete. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a place for the blackboard, chalk, paper, and pencil in the classroom, but it is time to realize that their role is diminished.
None of this is to say that the essence of teaching has changed, however. Discipline and dedication are still critical elements of education, both on the part of teachers and students. But we live in a world where education is, sadly, considered by many students to be less of a privilege and more of an obligation.
The current generation of students is one that was raised on television instead of coloring books, grew up with computers instead of novels, and are transitioning to adulthood accompanied by smartphones and tablets. There are those who would say that this is irrelevant to education, that there is no substitute for hardcopy textbooks and no. 2 Ticonderoga pencils. Many would even compare technology to an epidemic, plaguing youth with constant stimulation, disrupting their development and distracting them from their studies. It is hard not to sympathize with these viewpoints. How can educators today possibly compete with Facebook, Netflix, and Xbox? Whether or not they believe this technology is a curse, the fact of the matter is that the virtual world exists in the lives of modern students and it is here to stay.
"How can educators today possibly compete with Facebook, Netflix, and Xbox?"
Education has fallen behind the curve; there are no ifs ands or buts about it. There is no time to complain about inattentive students and incomplete assignments. Teachers today must instead embrace the Herculean tasks of adapting to a rapidly changing educational landscape and reaching an increasingly distracted student body. My aim is not to knock teachers and claim that they have not made an effort to adapt; many utilize PowerPoint, SMARTboards, and other various innovations to assist their efforts and have been for years. Even teachers who utilize many such technologies find themselves at a loss when it comes to grabbing the attention of their students. It is time to embrace newer and even more innovative methods of teaching.
I will be the first to admit that I was a student who teachers struggled to captivate and keep interested in the material. One critical mistake that many of my instructors made was to assume that I simply didn’t desire to learn. That was not the case. I was a young and distracted student, but that did not mean I wasn’t willing or even excited to learn. I remember my earliest learning experiences, which were actually spent on the computer using the JumpStart computer games. I loved those hours spent on the computer, not just because they were games, but because at the end of the day even the most distracted, inattentive student enjoys to learn new things. I reflect on my high school experience as a great one. I had many teachers who were willing to make an effort to connect with me as a student and a person, but the classes I remember as the most influential were the ones where my teachers captivated my attention and really engaged me, often through technological means.
"...the classes I remember as the most influential were the ones where my teachers captivated my attention and really engaged me, often through technological means."
PowerPoint was first marketed in 1990, and my middle and high school experience during the first decade of the millennium was dominated by it. It is a great resource that teachers everywhere utilize, but it certainly has its shortcomings. There is a great article written by Angela R. Garber about PowerPoint in the office space, one that I think contains a lot of truth in the classroom as well, in which she coins the term “death by PowerPoint”. I do not highlight the shortcomings of PowerPoint to criticize it or to claim that it is obsolete, but to illustrate that education in the modern world faces the same problem as any other industry: evolution. The same way that modern medicine is constantly advancing to combat ever-adapting pathogens, technology in the classroom must keep pace with the rapid changes in the life of students. PowerPoint has its uses, but it is not enough to engage a student who has the entire internet at his or her disposal. Teachers today must have their ear glued to the ground for new educational technology.
“Teachers today must have their ear glued to the ground for new educational technology.”
Another way in which the life of the modern adolescent has changed exists in the social world. Smartphones and social networks like facebook and twitter allow us to connect with one another in an endless and constant fashion. While this does contribute to the problem teachers face with unengaged students, it can be turned into a benefit for educators. Many teachers, particularly in the humanities, employ the harkness method in their classrooms. They prefer an open forum, where students share ideas, educate one another, and reach conclusions on their own or with a slight touch of guidance from the instructor. There is no reason that this format should be limited to inside the classroom. The tide of the educational landscape is shifting towards social learning, and there is no reason for educators to oppose this shift.
Many schools have adopted E-learning platforms such as Moodle and Blackboard to connect their students outside of the classroom. Such platforms have been the standard solution for education outside of the classroom. These platforms are not without their respective drawbacks either, but they are a step in the right direction. Moodle and Blackboard allow for students to get assignments, and post within each course’s website, but still the software, created initially in 2002 and 1999 is often noted as lackluster in its innovation.
Chalkup is a new social learning platform that allows for a much more versatile experience. Students can post whatever they feel is relevant to a classroom discussion board, interact with one another easily and readily both in the classroom discussion and outside of it through a chat feature, manage their assignments, share material, and even turn in their assignments all through a very user-friendly experience for both the student and the teacher. Chalkup was built with the student in mind. Learning Management System is such an outdated term, wouldn’t you say?
At the end of the day, teachers face a decision. Oppose the shift in education brought about by educational technology and risk losing the attention of their students, or embrace it and utilize social learning and the various other technological resources at their disposal.
Robbie Hugin is a Student Engagement Specialist at Chalkup.
Send him an email: email@example.com
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