It would be an understatement to say that technology has significantly changed the way we communicate, function and gather information as part of our day-to-day routines. Look at any group of people in public and you’ll see faces down as they peer into the screens of their mobile devices.
At any given moment, we can find out what’s going on – not just in our own neighborhoods, but around the globe. We can easily connect with friends and family within seconds. Even making a simple decision about what to eat for dinner can be reached by scanning hundreds of strangers’ ratings on recipes and local restaurants.
But how has technology changed education? Are those influences beneficial or do they pose a challenge? Take a look at some recent findings about the impact the presence of mobile devices, laptops and other digital tools have impacted the ancient institution of a formal education.
Expanding options for students of all ages
Considering that formal education has been a part of our environment for centuries, it’s only a recent phenomenon that education has been accessible to certain segments of the population. For instance, adult education programs formally supported by the federal government only came into existence in 1964. That’s when the Economic Opportunity Act was enacted to provide adult basic education to the public, primarily to address adult illiteracy.
Today, many people realize the importance of advanced education in opening the doors to better job opportunities. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the pay gap between college graduates and those with only a high school diploma is widening. People with a college degree are earning, on average, 56 percent more than high school graduates. In 1999, the gap was 51 percent.
With the increasing availability of an online education, most people can work on pursuing an education – no matter where they live or the limitations of their work and home schedules. Because of advanced technology, they can learn at their own pace and from their own homes.
More avenues for digesting information
While learning environments of the past primarily consisted of textbooks, lectures and the occasional video presentation, today’s classrooms can make use of various digital tools, including tablets, apps, interactive whiteboards and videos to help students gain insights on materials.
While there continues to be a concern that the use of digital tools in the classroom can present a distraction, the same could be true of classrooms over generations. Students who are not motivated to tune in to a lecture will always find reasons to get distracted.
With a new generation that has grown up with technology, teachers are finding that the use of technology in the classroom can be used as a stimulating avenue for engaging students. One study by PBS LearningMedia research found that 74 percent of teachers found that classroom technology helped them to motivate their students to learn and reinforce the learning materials. About 73 percent also said that it helped them better engage students with different learning styles.
Prepare Students for a Digital Work Environment
With more jobs demanding technology skills as a requirement, a classroom that promotes the use of technology better equips students for a challenging and evolving work environment. Access to technology as a way of collaborating and studying materials should be the expectation. By learning to use technology to solve problems in the classroom, students can develop the skills that will help them advance in their future careers.
Expand Study Options
Just 15 to 20 years ago, if students in rural Indiana wanted to study Japanese as a foreign language or take AP courses, they were likely out of luck. With online education, students all over the nation have an extensive array of curriculum options, whether they attend online school full-time or to supplement their education at a traditional school the choices are vast.
Overall, the benefits of technology in the classroom appear to outweigh any negative aspects, such as introducing a distraction that prevents students from learning.