From pre-kindergarten through college and beyond, technology enhances learning and becomes the subject of it. Sonali Mathur, CEO of online test-prep platform TestRocker, notes that "Technological proficiency is an important (I would even go as far as saying essential) skill that most employers look for in college graduates today." Mobile and desktop technologies play an essential role in intellectual exploration and preparation, helping learners of all ages make the grade.
Tablets offer generous-sized screens that excel as reading platforms, provide mobile connectivity to tap in to online resources and school intranets, and include the apps and power necessary to serve as full-fledged learning platforms. Former teacher of the year and current online reading engagement innovator Lindsey Hill of Evanced Solutions likes the tablet's flexibility. "If I had to choose one or two devices that I prefer, I'd lean toward the tablet," she says. "It offers mobility, easy access to online tools, e-games, social media links and contact information."
StudyBlue CEO Becky Splitt sees classroom technology revolutionizing learning as well as well as education. "Technology is a complement to the traditional classroom—education technology such as mobile, social and data tracking solutions are reshaping traditional education in a positive way." Tablets make a positive contribution to a learning environment that blends multiple forms of technology, especially at the elementary level, Mathur notes: "Elementary school students learn best through blended learning. Many teachers tell us they would not be able to teach most effectively without technology. From online textbooks with video lessons to laptops in the classroom to interactive whiteboard games, learning through technology becomes more enjoyable and in turn effective."
Notebook & Desktop Computers
From helping to develop hand/eye coordination and problem-solving skills in grade school to building software mastery in middle and high school, computers help children explore the world around them, discover their talents and learn to excel in academics. Online services help children and their parents create customized learning tools that target specific subject matter or skills. Blaine Vess, CEO of StudyMode, sees computers as primary learning tools, along with other devices.
"I would love for every student to have a computer, tablet and smartphone," he says. "Here's why: different devices offer different capabilities both in terms of offerings and mobility. I think: the more tech, the better." Mathur agrees, saying that "For students, I think that notebooks or tablets are best because of the mobility and flexibility. Students are constantly on the move these days, so notebooks/tablets make it possible for them to have their classroom and assignments all in one place so they can pick up on their work wherever they left off."
Smartphones may not be ideal for longform reading, but they keep learning uppermost in children's lives, both inside school walls and throughout the rest of their lives. Splitt likes the way mobile technology integrates into every aspect of intellectual development.
"We're seeing a synergy between devices and how students use different devices at different times to learn the same content," she says. "Students will create content on the Web and look up the same content on their mobile devices while waiting for a bus. There's a seamless, organic flow in how students are using technology and learning." Mathur views smartphones as ideal ways for families to extend even pre-kindergarten children's academic engagement beyond the classroom, pointing out that "parents can utilize many free educational apps on their phones and tablets at home to reinforce what their young ones have learned at school."
Online access has revolutionized how students study and learn, Vess says, looking back on the pre-tech scholastic experience. "Twenty years ago, a teen with a research assignment would go to the library, peruse the card catalog, take out books, scan the index for the appropriate section and then write their notes on little index cards. Today, teens would laugh in your face if you told them to do that."
Computers, tablet and smartphones change and upgrade constantly. Learning-technology experts agree that these tools' most important value must exceed their novelty. Hill takes a contextual approach, saying that "At one point, a pencil was considered a new 'technology.' Using a pencil didn't change the thoughts and ideas of the writer, but it became a tool to help the writer share his thoughts and ideas. Technology is the same thing—a tool—used to enhance thoughts and experiences in a novel way."
To advance the technology at their disposal in times of frugal budgets, schools can use bring-your-own-device strategies that allow students to use their own computers or tablets in class. At the same time that these devices can revolutionize learning, they give rise to the need for oversight not only in how they're used but in the value of some of the information they provide. Vess says that "Technology has made research faster, easier and more convenient. But it also comes with a caveat. The teens of the past had relative certainty that the books in the library were factual and accurate. The Internet is a flood of information of varying qualities."
Technology's connectedness—to teachers, fellow students and a world of data—makes it an ideal adjunct to learning, however. Splitt sees its importance for children of all ages. "At every level of education, students should be leveraging technology to enhance their ability to absorb content and further their academic progress."
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