If, like me, you have no idea what I am talking about then ask any teenager if there is a worse punishment than having their cell phone confiscated. Only then will you will realize that technology is moving faster than anyone could have possibly anticipated. Not only is that an issue but now teenagers have evolved so far beyond us that their lives are dictated by their thumbs and they communicate in a language without vowels!
The question is just how much of this can we incorporate into teaching and learning. We have to move with the times and utilize these advances in technology whilst remembering that all the best gizmos and gadgets in the world are nothing without a good teacher to utilize them to their full potential.
Some of the best and most used gizmos and gadgets, otherwise mundanely referred to as educational aids, replace the whiteboard (or for those of you as old as me, the blackboard!) with a digital interactive smart board. Not only can they play multimedia on a screen big enough to satisfy any football fan but they are interactive. That is, they work as a traditional whiteboard but can also be programmed to interact with both touch sensitive and handheld pointing devices and touchpads. In the simplest terms this means the teacher can now stand behind the pupils and write on the board. This alleviates the chronic neck ache that we used to suffer when Johnny in the third row used to pretend to release wind whenever your back was turned.
In a more educational sense pupils can select answers using touchpads anywhere in the class in a sort of mass “Asian Idol” talent vote or all point using infrared beams in homage to Star Wars laser battles. The more recent developments in this area use two projectors and everyone wearing coloured glasses to make the whole experience three-dimensional. Exploring the internal organs takes on a whole new meaning when you can zoom in, rotate and operate without leaving the comfort of your chair. It’s less smelly too!
One of the advantages of the World Wide Web is that now we can interact internationally to research, evaluate and help advance teaching practice and performance and raise educational standards. One of the pioneers in this field is the Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring (CEM) which is based at the University of Durham in the UK. They are the home for a series of online assessment and monitoring systems for use with pupils from 3-18 years old. This means not only can the students be tested at the computer terminal but the manner in which they are tested can be automatically adjusted to home in on the students real level rather than forcing them to either answer questions that are too easy or struggle with those too hard.
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If you get the question right your next one is harder and if it’s wrong the next question is easier. Also, the nature of the machine means that far more information can be collected than by a traditional paper and pen test and the useful data collected can be manipulated in so many different ways. These results can then be standardized against a much larger sample than any localized school community and realistic comparisons can be made with other relevant schools around the world.
The other huge advantage of computerized baseline testing is that it is now possible to effectively measure “Added Value”. That is, just how much difference my teaching has made to this student after I have taught them compared to before? A true measure of whether teaching and learning has taken place and is equally useful to both the teacher and the student.
In conclusion, the education of students in the modern era is probably the most important aspect of the development of tomorrow’s citizens. I have touched on only a few examples of how these advances can be brought into the field of education but nothing replaces a good teacher, it only enhances their teaching. We must ensure that the technology we invest in and use is both appropriate and relevant as we are investing in future of our world. What tomorrow will bring I have no idea but if it’s as revealing and as surprising as what happened to the technology used by the modern youth then I guess we are in for some more surprises and eye openers yet.
This article was written by STEPHEN FULTON
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