Technology in education is certainly worth the hype, even though many technophobes might not necessarily sing its praises. From YouTube to Twitter, in today’s society, technology is ubiquitous and unavoidable. It is important that we, as teachers and educators, take advantage of this unique time in history, as our students are part of a generation immersed in technology on a scale unlike any other.
From touch screens and SmartBoards, technology is at our fingertips, literally! Internet access has never been faster which allows for streaming HD video while computers can process material at unbelievable speeds, making content information easily accessible. Web-based programs such as Google Drive, Prezi, and Dropbox make collaboration between students easier than ever. Shared-work between teaching colleagues using these, and other programs in the like, increases rigor in the classroom. Unlike a “stuffy” and less than engaging textbook, Webquests, e-readers, social media sites, and instructional tools such as the Khan Academy engage students in the digital environment that they are used to and feel comfortable in.
All of these educational tools, rooted in technology, do have some drawbacks however. For one thing, our students are adept at using newer technologies and shift from program usage seamlessly. On the other hand, teachers generally struggle with newer technologies, especially as the speed of updates increases exponentially. Without proper training and professional development, these tools will be lost on the older generations as they fall further and further behind the techno curve.
A second major hurdle that educators will need to overcome as we go deeper into the 21st century is the “Googlefication” of our students. Most teenagers today are accustomed to the instant gratification that comes from using the Internet to do research, checking Wikipedia or IMDB for information about their favorite movie stars, or immediately seeing when someone “likes” their photos and posts on Facebook and Instagram. The problem is that most students are not doing “real” research. Typing a prompt into the Google search bar, word for word, and then clicking the first search result that pops up, is not research. But unfortunately, our students think that it is. The massive amount and rapid speed at which information is shared via the web, handcuffs students by inundating them with an abundance of information. Instead of sifting through this material, our students take what is written on the Internet as gospel, instead of doing their due diligence as researchers. In order to make the Internet an effective teaching tool, we need to teach our students techno literacy – to be Internet readers with a critical eye.
Above all else, technology, from Twitter to PowerPoint, has an effective use in education regardless of the drawbacks that some critics might cite. The speed and access to information, and the ability of interconnected collaboration, far outweighs the challenges technology might pose.