Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Utilizing Technology to Its Full Potential

By Sean Scarpiello

Thinking back to my days in high school, I remember that there was only one class that I took where we used a computer daily. This class was an Introduction to Business class which I took during my senior year. As I look back on the class, I feel as if our technology was not utilized to its greatest capacity. Each day, we would log on to our computer and open a word document. The goal of each class was to fill in all of the blanks, match up key terms, and maybe write a few short answer questions. Each word document also included the page numbers of any relevant textbook material, and sometimes a few links where we could find the answers to our worksheets. The overwhelming majority of our time spent in that class was learning on the computer by completing the same mundane worksheets, only to print them out and turn them in by the end of class.

In retrospect, I feel that the class was designed extremely poorly. Our teacher did not have too much to talk about during class, because each of us had our heads buried in the computers rushing to finish before the end of class. Also, there was very little communication and interaction among classmates. Looking back, I believe that although we were utilizing technology in our classroom, it was executed in a very poor method. Our daily worksheets were really no different than written worksheets, and since they were computer based, we had even less human contact.

It is not enough to only have technology in the classroom; it needs to be utilized to its full potential. One way of doing this is to simply design classes to be more engaging and interactive for students. This can be done using simulations, educational games, videos, and media. There are many different kinds of software available that allow students of all ages to learn while being engaged in the material. Also, classes could require students to do their own independent research using online news articles, blogs, and even the databases that the school district pays for each year. While it is important for students to grasp particular concepts in class, it is also important for students to formulate their own ideas and opinions on a subject. For a social studies class, this could mean taking a quiz to determine a student’s political party. For a science class, this could mean using a database to help them find examples of different proteins and how they function. As a student, nothing is more rewarding than being able to see real world connections to the material you learn in class.

One other way to ensure technology is executed well in class is by keeping the teacher well informed on how to use it. Most of us today know enough about computers to get us by in our day to day activities. In my experience, there have been many teachers who don’t understand the full capabilities of their technology. This would mean sending teachers to workshops and classes to keep their knowledge up to date on the latest trends and abilities of technology. Then, they can share their knowledge with their students through their fun and innovative lessons. Many education professionals may argue that it is too expensive for the school district to first buy the expensive technology then have to pay for teachers to learn how to use it. In response to this, the expensive technology is simply useless to students if those teaching with it are not well versed how to use the technology.

While it is important for schools to invest in technology to use as a tool for teaching, it is just as important for teachers to be able to use it. This will allow lessons to be better planned, so students will remain more active and engaged in the material. When students are able to relate and apply the material they learn in class in a creative way, they will have much more fun at school and learn even more.

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