Maximize The Learning Of All Children
The information age poses a whole new set of challenges and questions to America’s schools. The quality of our nation’s political, social and economic future will depend on the ability of young people to become functioning members of society who understand how to access information and determine its significance, draw independent rational conclusions and communicate findings. A democracy requires contributing citizens who are informed and capable of independent, critical thought. Continual retraining is becoming the norm in American business, but are future employees prepared to contribute? Our society’s preparation of young people for the workplace of the industrial age has been insufficient.
While the nature and strength of our national economy is not the only driving force for school reform, it is a powerful one. Global competition, new technologies, scientific discoveries, change in production techniques and the re-engineering of work are all driving economic and social change.
If the educational reform movement of recent decades has demonstrated anything, it is that public education is not meeting its obligations to our youth. American children are not learning nearly enough in the core academic subjects. Furthermore, our schools have not adapted to the culture of the information age, a culture which values knowledge and technology as its key commodities. Educational reformers are proposing a number of new approaches to learning. The concepts of education and schooling are being expanded by exploring the value of ideas such as charter schools, magnet schools, distance learning, voucher programs and new governance systems. As for the individual classroom, reformers recommend higher academic standards, increased teacher expectations, back-to-basics curricula, technology, etc. The incorporation of technology into the learning process has been encouraged for decades, but exactly how to do that is still unclear. The business world could not function without cutting-edge technologies, so why are schools so slow in their adoption?
To the children of the 1970’s and 1980’s, “information technology” could have implied a great range of ideas, from the specter of nuclear holocaust to fantasies of a 21st century embellished with flying automobiles and household robots. By the “click of a mouse” (a foreign phrase to the average citizen of the Reagan years), they are connected to the entire world. Yet many are incapable of accessing and utilizing this asset.
The use of technology is not an educational panacea. It is new instructional strategies and high standards of performance that cause improvements in achievement; technology is only a tool. But it is an important facilitator of education in the 21st century.
There are teachers and school administrators who fail to connect the importance of technology with the lives of young people. These educators offer a variety of reasons for not embracing the integration of technology into the curriculum — lack of funding; lack of time; lack of confidence in technology’s role in the learning process; and lack of opportunity for professional training in the use of technology.
The conviction that educational technology is important to the learning process is gathering support from leaders of government, business and education. They understand that American education can no longer afford to operate with a system designed in and for the industrial age. Information is everywhere. Yet, our schools are large bureaucracies, institutions that adopt change slowly. Thus, there are significant barriers that must be confronted.
As a nation we must be committed to providing quality education to our citizens. Each child needs to be positively encouraged and realize that with perseverance and hard work, goals can be attained. Using technology to entrench existing teaching practices, in effect automating the status quo, would be a major mistake. The focus ought to be how technology can be applied creatively to enhance teaching and learning.
In addition, it is imperative to address the fears and concerns of teachers. Teachers must have opportunities to see new methods in action, realize their significance and be convinced of the tremendous benefit to children. Teachers need access to hardware and training. They need time to become familiar with how technology can enhance learning and how administrative duties could be accomplished more efficiently. Of significant importance is fulfilling the teacher’s need to interact with others who are struggling with the same experiences.
Integration of technology into the curriculum ought to be interrelated with learning techniques that can improve student achievement. These strategies include: (1) learning in a context that interests and challenges the student, (2) learning by involvement in the process, (3) learning by replication, (4) learning by receiving immediate feedback on performance, and (5) learning by practicing different parts of the task separately and then incorporating them into the task as a whole.
A knowledge society requires citizens who are lifelong learners, people who explore and share ideas and benefit from the thoughts of others. Technology is a simple, yet integral means toward that end. Teachers of the 21st century must be prepared to maximize the learning of all children; ready to share their knowledge and experience; ready to share their heart; and, dedicated to helping all children find success in their world. New technologies can help them do that. We can delay no longer.
Jeff C. Palmer is a teacher, success coach, trainer, Certified Master of Web Copywriting and founder of https://Ebookschoice.com. Jeff is a prolific writer, Senior Research Associate and Infopreneur having written many eBooks, articles and special reports.