For centuries, advancements in technology have been evolving and shaping our world into what people regularly see and use today. Everyday, companies bring new models to the table that demonstrate the latest, most innovative technological advances the world has to offer.
As technology is advancing across many fields, the internet and other media-based aids are revolutionizing how education is presented in the modern age. From, for example, the first digital calculator made in 1972, to the popular Texas Instruments calculator now used in modern 21st century classrooms, technology in and outside of the classroom is under constant alteration.
“There’s been a lot of changes, we always tried to use technology to benefit,” said Stephanie Green, Missouri Urban Journalism Workshop coordinator, and Missouri Interscholastic Press Association past president/treasurer at MU.
Technology in the classroom is providing students with new opportunities to have first-hand exposure to the innovations that will shape and drive the ever-changing world.
“We need to be able to provide them with kind of real world experiences that build their skills — their technical skills — but also build the other kinds of skills that they need to go out and be successful as adults or in secondary education,” Green said.
In addition to working at the University of Missouri, Green is the Boonville School District Director of Curriculum for grades 6-12, technology coach for the school district, English teacher and tennis coach. After 22 years of being an educator, Green has noticed the impact that the changing world of technology has had in the classroom. This changing technology role is most obvious to Green when she compares her own experience in school with that of her current students.
“We sat through lots of lectures, took lots of notes, took lots of tests, and what we’re seeing today is that kids are very interactive and engaged in projects that rely on technology,” Green said.
In the words of Green, modern technology “individualizes the learning experience.” No longer needing to flip through an encyclopedia or dictionary, any student’s question can be answered just by a few taps on a screen. Technology has forever changed the way that individuals are engaged in the classroom, benefiting many students by creating a bridge to learning that is easy for them to understand while also being exciting and interactive.
Kathryn French, a local high school student, believes that technology is a beneficial addition to her learning environment.
“I’m one of the kind of people who likes to branch out of the traditional school methods,” said French. “Having access to technology firsthand allows us to talk more about what’s going on now and how it has been affected by what has happened previously in the past.”
French is not alone in her thinking. According to a 2014 Pew Research Study, 64 percent of people across 32 developing and emerging nations believe that the internet has a positive influence on education.
Lecturing and standard presentations are becoming a concept of the past. Children as young as kindergarten are given access to technological tools in hopes to provide them with a higher education that will welcome them into the world after they leave the education system. Laptops and iPads, with the help of apps such as Schoology and Google Classroom, are designed to engage students in their studies via device in effort to make learning a captivating and complete experience.
No matter what decade it is, Green believes that technology has, and always will be, present and will continue to evolve in the classroom; helping students explore new possibilities and individualize their learning experience.
“Technology is always there … I think in education we’re always using technology because that’s what our lives depend on, and it’s just how it evolves, what devices, what programs and what things it can do for us that we didn’t have before,” Green said.
While technology continues to flourish throughout the educational field, many still believe that there are drawbacks surrounding the use of technology in classrooms.
Green is concerned of the dangers that a reliance on technology can bring. Although she believes these devices are useful in classrooms, she questions what the impact the helpful inventions can have on basic skills such as writing, reading or simple calculations.
“I think the processing part of problem solving gets lost in it when something does it for you,” Green explained.
A popular school of thought is that technology can possibly cause the users to become more easily distracted. This concern is echoed by Rock Bridge High School student Audrey Snyder.
“The more I use technology, the more distracted I get,” Snyder said.
Teachers worry about this issue as well. According to another 2012 Pew Research Center Study, 87 percent of AP and NWP teachers surveyed said that they believe technologies are creating a new, easily distracted generation of students.
The generation gap is very apparent as teachers are attempting to sway from the curriculum they were originally taught to adhere to the younger generation and the idea of a technology powered world. Although many teachers are eager to try new teaching strategies, there are also teachers who have found they have to work harder to accommodate these new technologies. Sometimes, the idea of technology and it’s acclaimed ‘take over’ can serve as a threat to a teacher who isn’t accustomed to the new innovative electronics within the classroom. In addition to being potentially difficult to adapt to, technology presents teachers with a whole new challenge as students are provided with their own devices that give them access to the internet in its entirety.
Another major concern around increased technology use in educational settings is that some kids may be left behind due to financial or geographic disadvantages. Because technology and internet access can be limiting to some students and families, cities such as Blue Springs, Missouri, are working to combat these obstacles.
The Blue Springs School District has created the W.E.E. Learning Bus to help students of certain demographics have access to the same technologies as their peers. The W.E.E. Learning Bus is a roaming computer lab supplied with a wifi hotspot, 20 computers, a printer and one large flat screen television, allowing for presentations and a place to learn outside of the classroom.
W.E.E stands for Women Endowing Education, and it is a subgroup of the Blue Springs School District’s education foundation. The members are comprise of all women who are or were teachers as well as local businesswomen who convene their money and devote their time to volunteer for this specific group.
“Three to four nights a week for two to three hours, we go into the community, usually lower income areas, and we go to different neighborhoods where kids can get on and do homework, receive free tutoring and play online educational games,” said Amy Sawyer, W.E.E. Learning Bus facilitator.
The W.E.E. bus is accessible to the children in the communities, and with the rise of technology use in the world, the bus is also accessible to adults.
“Technology affects people, and in our case — on the W.E.E bus — kids are able to learn more about online safety, how to properly use the computers and components and how to navigate the internet for homework purposes,” Sawyer said. “Technology has evolved over time … and programs are always changing to be more user friendly and adaptable for people of all ages.”
Because of programs like this and increased access to online classes, Jian Lin, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri Engineering Department, believes that technology can also help make education more accessible to everyone, regardless of location, age or background.
“We try to have more and more online courses to try to create more impact on the general public,” Lin said.
Whether it’s out in the real world or life in the classroom, the technological advancements seen in today’s world will continue to grow and evolve in the future, as it now plays a vital role in the everyday lives of countless people. As technology continues to revolutionize the world, many believe that it is impractical to continue living and learning without the use of new and innovative devices.
Although there may be both benefits and consequences to using technology in the classroom, in the words of Green, “We’re living in a digital age and so if we’re not teaching in a digital age our students are going to get left behind.”
Supervising editor is Pete Grigsby.