Technology in the Classroom: A Case for Blended Learning
Blended Learning in the Age of Technology
Technology is an integral part of the modern world, which makes it impossible to ignore its pervasive influence. As society, business, and commerce evolve to rely upon and incorporate technology, education must keep up with the times. If we want to maintain student interest and make sure that school is both relevant and engaging, we must adopt an approach of blended learning, one which uses technology in the classroom in combination with traditional teaching methods. When these tools are successfully synthesized, students can get the best of both worlds.
The Future of Education: Virtual School
The increasing influence of technology can be seen in two different visions for education of the future. In his Wall Street Journal Article, “The Friendly, Neighborhood Internet School,” Yale Computer Science Professor David Gelernter describes a local virtual school, which relies heavily on e-learning, as a “one classroom school with twenty or so children of all ages between 6th and 12th grade, each sitting at a computer and wearing headsets... Each child does a whole curriculum’s worth of learning online, at the computer. Most of the time he follows canned courses on screen, but for an hour every day he deals directly, one-to-one over phone or video-phone with a tutor.”
Sugata Mitra, Professor of Education Technology at Newcastle University has another idea of what the future may hold. He describes children taking a history test 50 years from now in self-organized learning environments. The children have Bluetooth stereo implants in their ears or v-screen implants that show images in the visual cortex. The groups share everything as they listen to what their implants say and show them, and then create websites based on their findings and present them to the class. In this picture, technology is literally implanted into the children’s bodies, the guide/teacher is a projected image and the students aren’t sure if she, or it, is real or a computer program.
Benefits of Educational Technology
Each of these examples paints a picture of education that relies heavily on technology. The first promotes differentiation and self-placed learning. The second charts a new course which helps students develop 21st century skills such as managing, analyzing, and synthesizing multiple streams of information. In both examples, the role of a present human teacher has been basically erased. With so many new ideas and models of how educational technology can be used, the voice of educators needs to be part of the conversation as big decisions are made about the future of technology in the classroom.
Whether you’re an enthusiastic blogger on blended learning in your classroom or you’re more hesitant to introduce tech into your curriculum, every teacher should think about and share their opinion on this topic. As someone who has written digital math curriculum, I am excited about the potential for differentiation that technology holds. However, I’m reluctant, a little bit nervous about whether we can be responsible and sane as gadgets and constant online access integrate themselves into every aspect of our daily lives.
The Role of Technology in the Classroom
Whatever our personal opinions are, we cannot neglect the role that technology can play in education. Our lives are so intertwined with technology, so schools need to be places where students learn how to develop a healthy relationship with technology in which they understand both its benefits and limitations. While e-learning can be an incredible tool, sometimes the computer needs to be turned off. As Paul Lockhart argues in his essay, “A Mathematician’s Lament,” math should be taught as an art, letting students, for example, develop geometrical proofs by letting them exploring and using their intuition. That means not using a search engine, but rather a piece of paper, a pencil and some drawing tools. Later, after students have developed their proofs, they can go back online and share it with the world. The balance can be found when we learn how to utilize technology in constructive ways, while still acknowledging its limitations and synthesizing new tools with traditional methods.