22 May Technology in the Classroom
I recently attended a briefing on technology in the classroom. CQ Roll Call and Samsung sponsored the event, which began with guest speakers Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo of California. Senator Isakson made the point that many textbooks are often used for up to ten years in the same classrooms without being updated. He stressed the importance of the Internet in its ability to allow teachers to instantly communicate and share news with parents and students. Congresswoman Eshoo said that technology is changing the way we think about education because it is no longer a supplement to the classroom. The two go hand in hand and must grow in tandem. In order to allow this to happen, every school should be given access to fast, affordable broadband. Unequal access to high-speed Internet has contributed to an uneven school system, and the $7 billion cost to close this connectivity gap is a daunting prospect.
The second part of the briefing was a panel discussion featuring four key education leaders. The panel expanded on what the Senator and the Congresswoman said; mainly, our education system needs to catch up with the advances being made in technology by updating everything from textbooks to chalkboards. Technology allows educators to personalize learning, which is crucial because it is impossible to treat all learners alike.
The panel discussed several new tools that can be used to increase the usefulness of technology in the classroom. Many of these tools encourage individualized learning, which would allow each student to move at his or her own pace. One tool is that more class time could be spent doing what is normally assigned as homework, so the teacher could immediately provide feedback to each student. Another possible tool is an online system that would allow each student and his or her parents to monitor progress throughout the school year. Similar to the way in which Netflix and Amazon.com focus on customers’ interests and previous purchases, this system would design a student’s learning path based on his or her areas of strength and weakness. Digital records would also make grades more accessible and would allow students to see which type of assignments need improvement.
The panelists recognized that the tools themselves are not full solutions to the issues facing the American education system. Technology should not put a burden on teachers. Rather, teachers should be given the adequate information to ensure they know how to properly use the tools and data. This is where Hope Street Group comes in. No matter what technological advances are made in the classroom, one thing that will remain consistent is the presence of teachers. Teachers must continue to have a voice in the policymaking process, and Hope Street Group provides them with that opportunity. Computers will not be doing the teaching; they will simply be making the learning experience more effective.