Guest Post: How Technology Is Improving Education

Guest Post by: Katleen Brown

Since the beginning of technological innovation, the education sector has undergone various changes. Most people have always desired to be in classes with few students but this has been a challenge in learning institutions because of the huge number of people seeking education. With technology, however, it is now possible for the instructors to give personalized attention to all students. Schools have introduced learning portals that allow students to access all the contents taught in school for revision.

The most amazing contribution of technology to education is the introduction of distance learning also known as e-learning or virtual learning. Because of the high population of people seeking secondary education, schools have introduced this mode of learning which means that students do not need to be present in a physical classroom. Initially, this was conducted using saved materials where students would pick recorded content and watch from home. The internet, however, brought improvements to this system since it is now possible to attend class in real-time from a remote location.

Online classes commonly known as webinars are becoming more popular because of convenience on both the students and the school. More people are able to attend a lesson without squeezing in the limited space of the classroom. Thanks to applications such as Skype and video calling apps, all students whether in class or at home, have the teacher’s attention. They are able to follow through the lesson, ask and even answer questions. Support documents are then sent to the students in form of video recordings, word documents, power point presentations and PDFs.

The introduction of smart phones and various wearable gadget designs have improved this form of education further by making it even more accessible. Students do not even have to sit at home all day as they can now access learning materials from their mobile devices. These gadgets are Internet enabled and this means that communication between students and teachers and among the students themselves can be ongoing 24/7. Group discussions can now be conducted on virtual platforms through social media, messaging boards and the many other platforms available on the Internet.

In this type of education powered by technology, both the school and students benefit in the end. The schools are able to admit more students without thinking about the limitation of space. Because of economies of scale, the cost of education goes down and students become more flexible. There is no longer need to buy expensive textbooks since all learning materials are available on the Internet. This also means that students can devote more time to learning other than the few hours they spend in school.

In the recent past, high school teachers have embraced e-learning for various reasons. First and the most important is the fact that this mode of learning has no location and time boundaries. In the traditional learning systems, teachers had the challenge of delivering so much content within the short period of class time.

Location was also an issue since students would be denied the chance to attend a school of their choice because of proximity. Such limitations have been eliminated by the e-learning platform since students no longer need to be physically present in a class.

Second is the fun involved in e-learning which is delivered using interesting illustrations from the Internet. According to world news, multimedia is one of the most important tools in this mode of learning because it promotes interaction and engagement.

Thirdly, as mentioned earlier, e-learning is a cost-effective method of accessing education because most institutions do not charge tuition fees on this platform. The main investment is on the gadgets and Internet and this cannot measure up to the high cost of education. This explains why most people are resorting to homeschooling via the Internet.

Despite all these advantages, e-learning does not go without a few setbacks. The main one is the fact that it denies students hands-on skills. Craft subjects can be explained and even illustrated using videos but this can never match the physical illustrations given by a teacher in class. It also encourages anti-social behavior since students will no longer have physical interactions with their classmates. Much as they interact through chat rooms and social media, the social outcome can never be the same. There are also health concerns raised on this mode of learning because of the fact that learners spend a huge part of their day behind computers or focused on their gadgets. This poses a risk of developing backbone complications because of bad posture and visual complications.

In conclusion, we can say that e-learning is more beneficial if precautions are taken to handle the demerits. It has made it possible for everyone to access education irrespective of age or any other physical limitations. This means that even people who for one reason or another never made it to high school and are considering going back can get the chance. Most of these people are too old and busy with other responsibilities to spend a whole day in a classroom. They can, therefore, enroll and attend virtual classes and even take their exams from remote locations.

 

About the Author

Katleen Brown, a content writer. She loves to publish her articles on various technical related websites. In her spare time, she likes to do research and writing articles to bring awareness on new trends in technology and gadgets. She is working as Communication Practitioner and Technocrat Expert Writer. Advocating all types of technical professionals. Connect with her on Google+, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Help Me Out: Tell Me What You Want to Read About

I apologize for the lack of posts on Teaching & Technology. I can give you a list of excuses, but they would be simply that, excuses.

Let’s review them, shall we?

  1. I was busy with work
  2. I wanted to binge-watch TV shows on Netflix
  3. I wanted to relax and spend time with friends/family
  4. I was on vacation
  5. I didn’t have anything to write about
  6. I felt I was posting too many guest posts and infographics and not enough of my own content

See, excuses? And in fact, they are the same excuses that teachers hear from students. Okay, maybe not the guest post/infographics excuse, but the rest of them, teachers hear time and time again.

In fact, I even thought about going on hiatus and not writing for a while. Except…I’ve kind of already done that. It’s been about 4 months since I’ve written anything. Sure, I’ve read books and I could have published reviews on them. I could have started a new section and publish reviews on movies that were inspired by books. I could have downloaded random apps on my iPad and published reviews. I could have read the hundreds of emails send by the Department of Education or other organizations and wrote what I thought. I could have gone through my feeds on any number of social media sites and re-posted infographics.

But I didn’t.

When I really think about why I haven’t published anything it all comes back to a lack of inspiration. There was a time when I would stay up too late to finish a blog post. There was a time I couldn’t wait to get to my computer and type out the outrage that I felt. I don’t know where that inspiration has run off to, but I’m going to find it. And you’re going to help me.

See, just like a teacher who asks the students what they want to learn about, I’m going to do the same with you, readers.

So tell me, in the blog comments, on the Facebook page, Tumblr page, etc., what content do you want to see on Teaching & Technology? Do you have an iPad app that you are dying to get a review of? A book you want an opinion on? A movie you’d like me to watch and review? A burning question you want answered (with research!)? What interests you in the field of education and/or ed tech?

I’m also going to be super strict on guest posting. I’ve noticed the majority of people submitting guest posts just want to post something to get a link back to their site. I’m all for giving someone a platform to publish, but I’ve been less than thrilled with the content of the submissions. One even tried to sell me on the benefits of cheating…but it wasn’t satirical!

I look forward to your comments and inspiration.

Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy’s principles have guided many teachers and educators since it’s publication in 1956.  However, digital technology has  made several concepts either difficult to apply or down right obsolete.

Fractus Learning has created a revised version, Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy.  They’ve included the original taxonomy, a revised taxonomy, a digital taxonomy based upon that revision, the function levels (verbs that you use for assignments), and activities to do with digital tools.

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Digital Literacy: Could e-books be a detriment to reading fluency?

Digital books have been around for a while now.  I’ve read a handful of books on my low-cost model Kindle and a couple on the Kindle app on my iPad.  I like having the flexibility to use digital books.  However, there just is something about a physical book that is special.  I definitely would know; I have lots of them.

While digital books are great green space-savers, could they actually be hindering reading proficiency?  At first, that concept seems silly: the built-in dictionaries can give instant access to unknown words, the read-aloud functions can help pronounce words or even pages, and the font size can adjust for eye problems.  But let’s look closer at those.

If you aren’t careful, those “helpful extras” can quickly and easily turn into “distracting extras”.  Videos that pop up in text books that enhance learning?  Sounds great: but now the student has to stop reading, focus on the new content, and then return to the reading content trying to remember what was being said before the video.

Annie Murphy Paul reported, for the New York Times, on a recently presented study by Heather Ruetschlin Schugar and Jordan T. Schugar from West Chester University.  The researchers found that among middle and high school students, “reading comprehension…was higher when they read conventional books” versus digital books on iPads.

Paul, summarizing information presented by the Shugars, states succinctly:

Parents and teachers to look for e-books that enhance and extend interactions with the text, rather than those that offer only distractions; that promote interactions that are relatively brief rather than time-consuming; that provide supports for making text-based inferences or understanding difficult vocabulary; and that locate interactions on the same page as the text display, rather than on a separate screen.

In addition, Paul states:

Adults should ensure that children are not overusing e-book features like the electronic dictionary or the “read-to-me” option. Young readers can often benefit from looking up the definition of a word with a click, but doing it too often will disrupt reading fluidity and comprehension. Even without connecting to the dictionary, children are able to glean the meaning of many words from context. Likewise, the read-to-me feature can be useful in decoding a difficult word, but when used too often it discourages children from sounding out words on their own.

So are digital books going to kill literacy rates?  Probably not.  However, if you don’t apply the same methods to learning how to read when using digital books as was done with physical books, we may have fewer and fewer people willing to read 500+ page books.

Wikipedia: How to Use It in the Classroom

You really should use Wikipedia in the classroom.

Seriously.

Wikipedia should not be the website version of “he who shall not be named”.  It is widely known that telling someone not to do something only fuels the desire to want to do the “forbidden” behavior.  So, if we don’t want students to use Wikipedia for research because it is inaccurate, we cannot simply tell students to stay away.  We have to show them.  We have to have them do something with Wikipedia for them to realize its potential and its weaknesses.

There are several ways teachers can show students the strengths and weaknesses of Wikipedia.  The first is a scavenger hunt.  It may take some time to develop the worksheet of inaccuracies; however, it will teach students lessons about Wikipedia far quicker than you can telling them.  You can find which pages have inaccuracies by asking Twitter followers, Googling “inaccuracy examples of Wikipedia” or something similar, or by the old-fashioned reading and checking.

The first part of the hunt should have students working (individually) searching Wikipedia for the answers to questions (but they don’t know the answers are inaccurate yet!).  The next day, after collecting the Wikipedia worksheet, hand out another worksheet with the same questions, only the students cannot use Wikipedia; they must find another source.  You can give them a list of specific main sites to pick from to ensure accuracy.  The next day, pass back the Wikipedia worksheet and discuss why/how come there are differences.  A variation on this scavenger hunt could require students to search an obscure topic in which the Wikipedia page and its references are the jumping off point for the questions.

Other ideas come from an article, “How To: Use Wikipedia in the Classroom Responsibly” by Adam Heckler (@adamvartek) on Fractus Learning; it was published on May 13, 2013.

  1. Learn the Rules
  2. Create an Assignment
  3. Choose an Article
  4. Edit, Edit, and Edit
  5. Evaluate Student Work

Learn the Rules – Despite what you make think, Wikipedia isn’t a free-for-all.  They have rules, listed on their Key Policies and Guidelines page.  Heckler sums them up:

  • Free content: All content submitted to Wikipedia must be original, since it will become part of the commons. Copying and pasting from other sources is a no-no.
  • Reliable sources: Third-party sources are required for all claims. They need to have a sturdy reputation for fact-checking and accuracy (e.g., academic journals).
  • NPOV: Short for neutral point of view, this means that all articles should be written without bias. Argumentative stances and outright advocacy are not allowed.
  • Good faith: Respect your fellow editors, and assume they’re acting in good faith. That is, avoid accusing others of deliberate malice just because you disagree.
  • Notability: When deciding whether or not to write about a certain topic, Wikipedia generally considers an article justified if the topic has been covered by a third-party.

Create an Assignment – Since Wikipedia is “riddled with mistakes”  and pretty much anyone can edit a Wikipedia entry…why not teach students how to use a wiki by copy-editing inaccurate Wikipedia entries rather than creating some fictitious wiki that will be abandoned after the class finishes?  Working on an assignment for Wikipedia is an obvious, real-world connection students can see and do right now.  They are contributing to finding accurate information, deleting inaccurate information, adding to the wealth of common knowledge, and can pick any topic they find interesting.  Teachers can even have students present their edited entries to the class to practice speaking and listening skills as well.

Have a student who is bilingual, trilingual, or multilingual?  Awesome!  There are an abundance of articles that need to be translated.  Wikipedia has a list of articles that need to be translated from a foreign language to English and a list of articles that have been translated…but not very well and need some cleaning up.  Have students who can’t seem to put their phone down because they are taking pictures and video for their Instagram or Vines?  There are many articles that need media created.  Give them a photo or video assignment.

If you need direction on which articles to pick, Wikipedia has lists of articles that need photos, need videos, and need copy editing.  Don’t forget Wikipedia has a guide to assist students with the copy editing process.

Okay–so once you’ve narrowed down your topic or focus, how do you pick a “good article” to edit?  Heckler has some great pointers:

  • Start with “stub” articles. Stubs are articles that are too short to be fully encyclopedic. You can find a list of them at this link. There are thousands of stubs, so your students should have no problem finding something to improve.
  • Progress to start-class articles. These articles are little more than stubs, but could also use a significant amount of work.
  • Try finding subjects that students know a lot about but that don’t have lengthy articles on Wikipedia yet. This helps them create new pages at length.

What to avoid:

  • Editing articles that are rated as “Featured” or another higher rating class. These kinds of pages are more difficult to improve effectively for inexperienced editors.
  • Editing articles on controversial subjects. Just use common sense!
  • Creating articles on topics not often covered by third-party literature.

Type of Writing – Make sure to remind students that Wikipedia entries are factual and unbiased.  They may be tempted or default to writing persuasively, so it is important to let them work on their own, but help point out something that is too persuasive.

Evaluate – There are a multitude of evaluation methods that can be used.  My favorite is having a rubric in which I can circle the grade (not just 1-5, but explanations of what 1-5 mean and the differences between each number) to assist in a quick evaluation during a short presentation to the class [read more about rubrics].  The presentation would include displaying the final product, the process/methods the student used, areas of issues/problems/trouble, areas of “genius moments” and a reflective statement on what the student would do differently next time.  The student would also hand in a 1-2 page reflection essay with this information written down so I can review it later when I have more time.

Wikipedia has several great uses in the classroom.  It may not be the end-all-be-all for research because of the high probability of incorrect information; however, Wikipedia can only get better with more edits, more media, and more translations.  It seems silly to have students create a class wiki about nothing that will be discarded after the end of the term.  From what I’ve read so far, the Common Core desires real-life connections, solving real-world issues, focusing on speaking and learning, writing informative text, and reading more non-fiction texts.  Using Wikipedia in the classroom, checks all those boxes.

TeachHub Magazine

Digital magazines are increasing in popularity quite rapidly.  The convenience of downloading the magazine to a tablet, the green/eco benefits of the magazine (not killing trees or what to do with the paper copy after you’re done), and, in some cases, the less expensive price-per-issue cost simply outweighs buying a magazine from the local grocery store or newsstand.

TeachHub_AprilCoverDigital magazines have also given a platform to smaller publications to have equal circulation with well-known, well-established magazines.  With lower overhead costs, many publications are able be able sustain their print edition through the sales of their digital edition, or even to survive in digital form only.  One publication to debut in digital form only, is TeachHub Magazine.  It is a recent publication, only three issues published, March, April, and May (just published yesterday!).

If you are unfamiliar with TeachHub.com, you need to become fast friends. The site focuses on the field of education, teaching, and technology.  TeachHub Magazine is available free on Newsstand for the iPad and, just recently, the iPhone.  And when I mean free, I don’t mean the app is free but you have to pay for the magazine, I mean the magazine is free.  Always. Forever.  The K-12 Teachers Alliance (website sponsor) promises never to charge for it.TeachHub_AprilContents

So what’s inside?  Teacher stories, both funny and inspiring, articles on professional development, technology reviews, book reviews, movie reviews, articles on bullying, articles on Common Core, and essentially, articles to help you be a better educator, advocate, parent, or student.

TeachHub Magazine takes advantage of the digital publication medium.  It’s interactive, and it’s more than just hyperlinks.  There are embedded video clips, “tap to reveal answer”‘ prompts, scrolling top to bottom to read an article and left to right to flip between articles, and “tap here to connect” to further your reading/understanding of the topic.

The magazine is a quick read, there are only about 20-some pages in each issue; however, the information is very helpful, reassuring, informative, and current.  Some topics they cover I already know a bit about.  It’s great to be reassured that I am current on at least a few ideas.  The information on bullying, Common Core, apps for the iPad, and reviews are succinctly informative.  They don’t need to go on for pages and pages like professional journal articles because the magazine has a more general audience than professional journals.  Another bonus of its succinctness–the lists of items (i.e. workout tips or music apps) are helpful because they boil down all the possible options into small steps that are feasibly implementable tomorrow.  Articles that I’ve read so far in the March and April issues (still reading the May one!) are the same topics covered in recent blog posts.  TeachHub Magazine infuses as much technology into their digital publication as possible without being so overwhelming that it comes across as trying to hard.  I find it to be a perfect balance.

Speaking of perfect balance, there are no ads in the magazine, either.  At the end of the magazine there are two full-page advertisements: one for TeachHub.com and one for the sponsor of TeachHub.com, the K-12 Teachers Alliance.

For a completely free magazine, there is no other in this field of this caliber.  I am impressed with each issue, impressed with TeachHub.com‘s blog posts and all the content I find on their site.  If you’ve subscribed to Teaching and Technology‘s Flipboard magazine, you’ll notice quite a few articles from TeachHub.com have been flipped into it.

iPad as the Teacher’s Pet: An Infographic

This infographic was created by @TonyVincent.  It is the most thorough, most informative, and most helpful iPad app infographic for education that I have seen.   This infographic is more than just a .jpg or .png file; it was uploaded to Scribd, so that the included links to the apps or other websites would work.

On Tony’s blog entry for this infographic he also posted links to download a 6-page version to print or a very large 24-page version to piece together to make a poster.