Education technology just means the use of technology in education. The teachers incorporate apps, graphics, and other things in teaching. Just like any other aspect of life, the practice comes with its pros and cons.
Advantages of education technology
There are plenty of benefits that come with the use of technology in education. They include:
Independent learning of students: Since the students use individual laptops and tablets, they can easily find the information they are interested in from the internet and understand it on their own. The cool thing is that the textbooks, web-based content, and electronic books that the students use are updated in real time.
This allows the students to get the current information. With the knowledge that the students get in the classroom, they can apply it to the outside world so that they can become more knowledgeable even out of the class setting.
It prepares the students for the future: We can all agree that the future of the world is in technology. When the students are suing the computers and tablets in the classroom, they are not only getting the academic knowledge, but also learning how to use the technological gadgets.
This allows the students to communicate better with the gadgets, have no problems fitting in with the others, and also don’t have problems finding jobs once they are out of school.
Makes the lessons fun: Unlike listening to the teacher’s monotonous voice, watching educational videos and other descriptions is more fun. The lessons on the computers are more interactive, and this motivates the students to learn. The teachers can also change the style of the lessons using computers, tablets, and projectors.
Easy to manage students: This is important in schools with many students. The teachers can easily see the students who have completed their courses and quizzes. Since everything is electronically generated at the touch of a button, the teachers can easily monitor the progress of the students by simply checking what they have performed throughout a particular period.
New and better teaching methods: Unlike before when the only way that the teachers could teach was to stand in front of the class with chalk and dust board, now the professors can come up with better and exciting teaching methods. For example, they can use blogs, social media, and even podcasts to teach.
The different learning methods can incorporate all types of students including those suffering from disabilities. For example, the teachers can use voice-to-speech converters, volume controls, translators and many others to ensure that everyone is incorporated in the study.
Disadvantages of the technology
While the technology has its advantages, it also has its fair share of difficulties. Some of the most common disadvantages include:
Distractions: Many teachers have made complaints that the students are distracted when using the computers. In most cases, the students visit non-educational websites thus fail to complete the assignments that are given to them.
Loss of valuable skills: Some professionals argue since the students are on their computers all the time, they have problems building critical social and team building skills.
I have written numerous articles about best practices for educators to use when teaching adult students, and I have enjoyed conversations that have begun as a result of comments posted. Several of the comments that have been written in response to my articles have discussed aspects of higher education that seem to be broken or in need of repair. I understand those perspectives and I have respect for anyone who wants to discuss important issues in this field. For example, I have read many articles recently about adjuncts, especially online adjuncts, related to issues concerning pay, course size, and job security. I know that the for-profit online school industry has come under great scrutiny. In contrast, there is a non-profit online school that is gaining popularity by offering competency-based degree programs resembling correspondence-based courses.
If you aren’t familiar with the original concept of a correspondence course, it was popular in the 1970s and usually consisted of a participant being mailed study materials and a test or assessment that had to be completed and mailed back in. There may have been lectures to watch on public television at a particular time of day as part of the program. Once the requirements were met, a certificate of completion was mailed. I have spoken with several people who have completed degrees with the non-profit online school mentioned above and the reason why I compare it to a correspondence course is that it is possible to complete classes without ever having to interact with an instructor. The only requirement for course completion is to pass a final assessment, with a pass or fail option in place of a grade, and the passing grade is often set with a percentage as low as 55%, which is a failing grade for most traditional colleges.
With all of the issues surrounding the field of higher education, the question then becomes: Is it possible to still earn a degree, one that holds value for students? More importantly, is it possible to measure the true value of a degree in higher education? I believe the answer begins with a matter of purpose and by that, I mean schools should be working to ensure that educational programs and courses are designed with a specific purpose and completed for a specific purpose by the students. Educators should also see this as a matter of importance as they develop their instructional strategies and work with students in the classroom. It may sound too idealistic and improbable to implement; however, there is something that every educator can do to ensure that their students are working towards this goal of purposeful-driven education. What I will focus on is the educator’s perspective and strategies that can increase value for students.
My Experience in Higher Education
While working for one of the larger for-profit online schools, students stated to me hundreds of times in their introductions that once they completed their associate’s degree they would be able to purchase a new house, new car, and earn a six-figure income. I do not know if that was their belief when they began their degree program, and I do not want to blame anyone if that wasn’t their initial belief; however, students need to have realistic expectations. For these students, a degree was almost like a lottery ticket to a better life. While they were not really certain how that transformation was supposed to occur, they were convinced that it would happen upon graduation.
I can also share an example of my own continuing education. I enrolled in a traditional MBA program as I was planning to relocate and I knew that I was going to start my own small business as a consultant and writer. I also knew that historically a MBA graduate was highly-sought after; however, that has changed over time. Obtaining a MBA no longer guaranteed a certain job or career. What I acquired after graduation was a knowledge base that would inform my small business practice, help develop my business acumen, and continue to inform my teaching practice.
The next degree I sought was also done for a specific purpose and it was focused on adult education, as I was working in the field of higher education and had goals established. I knew going into my doctorate degree program exactly what I wanted accomplish once I had graduated, and how the acquired knowledge would enhance my teaching practice and serve as professional development for my career. In other words, I did not expect that the degree itself was going to do something for me, as people often do when they invest their time and finances in a degree, I knew what I was going to do with that degree – and that is how I was going to gain value from it.
The question that I keep in mind now is this: How do I help students also gain this type of value from their degree, especially if they do not start out with a purpose in mind?
What Does It Mean to Create Value?
I have worked for many online schools that have told their students to be sure to relate the concepts they are studying to the real world, without providing any further explanation or set of instructions. The phrase “real world” is being used so much now by schools that administrators believe everyone knows what it means, and I am not convinced that students actually understand it from the same perspective. The real world for students may involve trying to make ends meet, working to support a family, and balancing many responsibilities – while in contrast, schools want students to see bigger issues. Many of these same schools also give their instructors similar guidelines and tell them to relate the course concepts to the real world as they write course announcements, provide feedback, and engage students in class discussions.
As a faculty development specialist and educator in higher education myself, I well understand the wide range of possibilities that an application of course concepts to the real world can involve. In other words, how I view the real world and the issues surrounding it may be vastly different than someone else who holds a different position, skillset, academic background, and set of experiences than I do. This means that simply telling instructors to apply topics to the real world does not necessarily mean value is being created for their students. How someone defines the real world now is a matter of importance and that can vary from one individual to another, and students may not always relate to the reality of their instructors – and that means another solution must be found if relevance is the key to creating value. Below are some strategies that I have implemented in my online classes to help create value for students.
Purpose, Vision Statement: I believe that a purpose statement exercise is one of the most helpful projects that an educator can implement, if a connection can be made to the course and there is flexibility allowed in the course curriculum. When I have utilized this as an activity, I have asked students to define, redefine, expand, elaborate upon, and share the purpose for their degree program. I then have an opportunity to help work on mentoring students and adjusting, if even slightly, their expectations. When I provide instructions for this activity, I will ask them to share some research related to the career outlook for any of the jobs they may be interested in.
A vision statement activity can be implemented in conjunction with a purpose statement exercise, or used as a standalone activity, as a means of encouraging students to look ahead and define what they are working towards in realistic and specific terms. This activity can be useful for students who are visual or prefer to write out their goals. If a student is visually oriented, they can express their vision as a series of steps and find images to represent each goal. For written goals, students can provide details that go beyond stating something general, such as “I will earn a six-figure income” – and describe specific steps to be taken after graduation.
Collaboration: If you want students to begin to understand what the real world is like, try to find a way to have them collaborate together in small groups. What this does is to have them experience difference perspectives, opinions, and experiences. While some students may not be open to listening to or accepting what others have to say, and may even argue against them, eventually they will realize that there are other versions of reality that exist. While this may prompt conflict, and the group may never fully function together in the manner that you would like for them to in the short term, it is possible that this can serve as a trigger and prompt higher order thinking.
Projects: Project-based learning or PBL is popular with many educators and I can certainly understand why as it effectively demonstrates how students have taken and applied what they are learning throughout the class term. In addition, they are creating a portfolio, often stored through electronic means, that can be shown to potential employers as evidence of work product produced as part of the degree program. In other words, PBL prompts more that rote memorization of course concepts.
Case Studies: This is one of the most popular methods for implementing a real-world approach to learning. There are many case studies available for instructors and many more than can be found through online resources. These studies are usually related to businesses and can be used to prompt discussions and analyzation, leading to the use of critical thinking skills. This provides value as students are learning to think beyond the parameters of a textbook and apply what is being learned to what they may encounter in their careers.
Current Topics: Any time an instructor brings current topics into the classroom they are utilizing the real world. This provides context but not necessarily value. The value comes from how it is used and what students are doing with the information. More importantly, as with any activity there must be consideration given as to how it relates to the course, the learning objectives, and ultimately the degree program. For example, a current topic that is used as a springboard for application and analyzation of a course topic provides context and value for students.
As an educator, I am not going be able to change higher education by myself – whether it is the for-profit online school industry or the non-profit online school industry. As an adjunct online instructor, I am not going to be able to change existing courses and curriculum that I have been assigned to teach. Does this mean I should look at higher education as a system that is broken and beyond repair if I see nothing but problems? Should I feel hopeless if students are earning degrees that do not seem to hold the value they hoped to receive or may have been told they would receive? Absolutely not.
I can take every opportunity I have available to help teach my students how to define and redefine the purpose they have for their degree program – even as I am working to help them learn to relate and apply what they are learning to current topics and business issues. I measure value in higher education by the strategies I implement to help students find purpose and meaning as they are involved in the learning process. True value in higher education begins when I help engage students in the course and the learning process, and I implement purposeful-driven educational strategies.
Dr. J has been working in the field of higher education and distance learning since 2005, with roles that have included Chief Academic Officer, online instructor, college instructor, and online faculty development specialist. Dr. J has also acquired significant experience with instructional design and curriculum development, having developed hundreds of online courses for bachelors, masters, and doctorate programs.
Dr. Bruce A. Johnson is a professional writer, resume writer, learning and development consultant, social media strategist, and career coach. Dr. J founded Afforded Quality Writing in 2003 and has written hundreds of resumes every year in most industries, utilizing a skill set based approach to highlight the best of each person’s career.
The purpose of education is to create responsible, productive and socially contributing citizens – people who can provide for their own families as well as contribute to their communities. As Toffler says, education in the 21st century should allow people to learn, unlearn and relearn. But I am not sure our schools and colleges are committed to this.
Education is one of the most unscientific human endeavors. You do well in school to get into a good college and earn a good degree. A good degree is supposed to be a passport to a good job. Based on your educational qualifications, you can climb to a reasonably high position without having to demonstrate any exceptional ability.
Beyond that, however, you may have problems. There is no established link between your performance in school and your performance in a job. Even more importantly, there is no link between your performance on the job and your performance in life.
To be true to purpose, education should support a child develop three fundamental capabilities:
Discover, develop and continually evolve a vision to become a useful member of society:
Many of us have an advantage – our parents envision our future for us, driving us to work towards achieving this vision. However, this is not as common among the poor. The education system has to step in to help everyone create this vision, and to build even the poor child’s confidence to pursue the vision.
Balaji Sampath, who runs Eureka Child – an NGO committed to improving literacy and math ability in government schools, told us a touching story in this context. Coming back from the US to do something meaningful in education, he immersed himself in local issues by spending a few months in a village. He was in a village classroom when a child asked the teacher whether it was possible to travel to the moon. “You and I cannot fly to the moon,” the teacher answered. “But scientists in the U.S. can…” We must stop robbing our children of goals and dreams.
Understand that questions are more important than answers:
Our education system places undue emphasis on providing answers – often to questions that children do not have. In other words, too often we teach children concepts without context; we need to show them why learning is important. We need to focus on awakening kids’ natural curiosity and teaching them to love learning. A good way to do this is to place children in natural experiences or in games where they can ask questions. In these settings, learning is immediate and strong. Learning can be a structured discovery process, offering students varied learning outcomes – just as our situations and decisions later in life offering different outcomes.
For example, an NGO in Mumbai went to schools with an experiment to teach students about water conservation. The pupils measured the amount of water consumed while brushing their teeth with the tap open, and then again with the tap off. Imagine, if we all learn this type of lesson in school, how we can apply the principles to so many other aspects of our home and work later in life.
Learning to Learn:
The world is evolving too fast for schools and colleges to keep up. What is being taught is inadequate and outdated, or will be soon. It is important that children are encouraged to discover answers on their own – through the Internet, through experimenting and by having access to experts on the cutting edge of every field.
It is important that students learn the scientific method –
(a) creating a hypothesis based on observations,
(b) designing and conducting experiments to prove or disprove these hypotheses and
(c) arriving at conclusions while recognizing that the conclusions could change with additional information.
With the level of knowledge available in the world today, it is also important to exercise judgment what to learn, and how and when you need to learn it. We need to teach kids when to rely on their own judgments,, and when to rely on the expertise of others. Our children must learn that even when you outsource the effort, you retain responsibility over the result.
What do you think? Do you agree with these ideas about the critical capabilities that our children need? Is our educational system addressing this? Do share your thoughts and experiences with all of us.
Sudhakar Ram is Chairman and Co-Founder of Mastek, a leading IT solutions company specializing in providing IT platforms and applications for large and complex transformation programs like the London Congestion Charging Scheme, and the National Health Service in the UK.
Committed to transformation on all fronts, Sudhakar Ram has written articles on transforming India, corporate governance, financial markets and governments. He believes that we have the potential to create a sustainable world and live in harmony with our environment. However, this would require a fundamental shift in our mindsets – the “constructs” that drive our attitudes and actions. The New Constructs is his initiative to leverage Connected Intelligence in realizing the Connected Age. Please share. Stay active, stay engaged.