The Importance of Integrating Technology Into the Classroomby Brian Jung
Computer literacy is crucial for anyone living or working today. Bringing technology in the classroom simply gives children practice with devices they'll use in their daily lives and work. But classroom technology can also make teachers more efficient and can open up avenues for discovery. If used properly, classroom technology can enrich a student's learning in almost any subject.
The most obvious use of technology in the classroom is in science. The sciences universally employ technology to conduct research, store and process information, run simulations and communicate with other scientists. Using the Internet, students can often directly connect with real working scientists, viewing experiments in progress. Using peripherals such as USB microscopes and other lab equipment, students can pull data straight into computers where they can use it to answer questions and visualize results, much the way working scientists do.
The Internet has, in many ways, made the world a smaller place. Students can much more easily communicate with students in other parts of the world. Technology enables classrooms separated by oceans to collaborate on projects and learn each other's cultures. Exposing kids to the Internet opens them to more points of view when researching news stories, which can both open their minds and engage their critical thinking skills.
The ability to edit images and video gives students opportunities to express themselves visually in ways that once would have been nearly impossible. Digital cameras and simple editing software mean that photography and filmmaking can be introduced even in the early grades. Tablet applications give students opportunities to experiment without wasting materials. As in any field, it's important not to let students become too pixel-orientated. Students need the tactile sense of working with old-school physical materials as well.
If programming is taught in primary and secondary education it's often as an extracurricular activity. Most schools define computer literacy as learning to use a Web browser to search for information on the Internet and learning to use office tools like Microsoft Word. This is unfortunate because students can benefit from learning to program. Programming skills can prepare students for high-demand software engineering jobs, but more than that writing computer programs teaches students new ways to solve problems. As algebra teaches the use of symbols and variables, programming teaches algorithmic and iterative processes, ways of thinking that can be applied in any field.
A recent movement in education promotes using technology to invert the usual model of learning in which transmission of information takes place in the classroom while assimilation of information takes place at home during homework. Instead of listening to lectures in the classroom and then attempting to apply concepts while separated from their instructors, students can connect to information transmission -- texts, lectures and videos -- at home through their computers and work with instructors during the day to apply what they've learned. The movement has shown good results so far and has a growing pool of adherents.
Traditional methods of teaching continue to have their place. Some fear that excessive technology in the classroom can alienate students from their teachers and peers. Especially in early childhood, some experts argue that children can be over-exposed to the virtual world of screens, reducing the amount of time they spend exploring and navigating the real world.
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