Technology in Education
Predicted Changes in Curriculum
In the next decade there are a number of changes expected in school curriculum. I believe the majority of these changes will be a reflection of huge growth in the area of technology. Today many school districts have some form of technology in the classrooms, but the use of this technology is expected to become less cumbersome and more widely affordable, thus available to students and staff alike. There has been great progress in bringing hardware, such as computers, monitors, keyboards, etc and various software programs into many schools, yet the lack of instruction on “how-to” use these systems seems to be behind the present trend. As such, it is my belief that the majority of changes in curriculum changes over the next decade will be influenced by teacher and staff comprehension of educational software. In order for this to take place; many districts need to seek out user-friendly software that makes curriculum preparation and design simple. In addition the design of this software should encourage comprehension and ability growth, thus driving the learning, instead of holding it back with complicated, and/or unsatisfactory software design.
Whether or not we are ready to accept it, a large percentage of our students are not only ready to take on educational technology, but require the use of technology in order to reach their interests and keep them focused. The subject area and age group I can easily identify as being most influenced by the ease of access of technology is the language arts classrooms of both middle and high school aged students. I say this because I believe much of what is learned in the language arts classroom is also used in other subject areas, such as history and science. Consequently student comprehension of the use of technology in language arts will empower students to perform at the same levels in other curricular areas using technology. For example, I recently had my tenth grade English students type an essay using Microsoft Word. The assignment they followed was a Webquest that guided them through a bit of Internet research. At the same time, many of these students were researching and typing up a report, also using Microsoft Word and the Internet, for their Science project on genomes. By providing them the instruction and practice on the Internet and with Microsoft Word, my students found completing the Science project to be less challenging.
Students see technology as a means to completing tasks expeditiously. Many of these students have the technology at home and are accustomed to completing many tasks, such as researching topics and writing essays with the use of their home computer and access to the Internet. With this capability, who would want to go back to taking trips to the library, visiting the card catalog and manually writing down where these sources can be found? Who would prefer hunting through the stacks to find the sources over the ease of researching from the comfort of one’s home using an online library? The individuals who prefer to perform their research manually are likely to be individuals who decline the use of such technology due to lack of access and/or the feeling of uneasiness while using it.
I believe students, teachers and staff will influence the growing use of technology as a learning method. As each individual becomes more familiar with the capabilities technology brings to the learning environment, the more each will desire the use of it. An analogy I like to use is why ride a bike to one’s destination when one can drive a car and get to their destination much sooner? This car is not only quicker, but also provides protection from the weather elements that may make riding a bike less desirable. Computers make many tasks much quicker, and provide other benefits such as ease of access to learning materials on and off campus. The ease and capabilities technology offers classrooms will positively influence its use in our classrooms.
Development and Design
Many districts are currently involved in developing and designing these technological advances in the learning environment. However, there appears to be an unavoidable learning curve that affects these decisions. As such, it has become evident, through trial and error, that it requires more than the upper management to make the choices on the hardware and software that will be available to the school sites. Let’s take into example my district’s plan, The Hemet Unified School District District Technology Plan (2006). This plan has hit this learning curve head on. The plan was created in 2006 and is to span until the end of the school year, 2009. As I take a look into the well intentions of the plan, now in retrospect, it is quite evident that we are in need of finding software that makes working with the hardware not only easier, but more desirable. Very little of what we have available by means of educational software conforms to the needs of our classrooms. Due to this fact teachers are left with the option of researching programs available through the Internet. What a disappointment it is to find that much of the educational software that is free to the public is also disorganized and little help to the average classroom teacher. In addition, the programs that might be of interest to most teachers require annual fees, and thus place a burden on these individuals to pay the subscription price to test out the software capabilities. What we lack in our district is software that is readily available and useful for all. In other words, we have learned that having all this technology doesn’t allow us to perform at our anticipated levels without the proper software to support student and staff needs effectively. This was an issue not recognized at the time the plan was put together.
Identifying where we have fallen short of meeting our goals allows us to further plan and implement a much needed plan that focuses on discovering and utilizing software that students and teachers will find desirable and effective in meeting our goals. A long story short, we have the hardware to support our staff and students technological needs, but lack the software that best supports the desired learning experiences. The next decade should bring with it an increased use of technology with the provisions of viable software. As such, I suspect Hemet Unified School District will place its focus, over the next decade, on finding and testing software that most closely meets the needs of the classrooms while additionally providing content that best supports the state standards.
Very little has been done in the past per individual support and decision making as it pertains to technology. As such, my role is to make every attempt to become involved in the decision making process, and encourage my district to continue to reach out to staff for their opinions on the needs in software. The number one thing I can offer in this area is my voice. Secondly, it is in my best interest to continue to explore the technology options currently available at my site and strive to become better skilled with the use of these items. One such example of technology I have yet to become familiar with is the InterWrite Pad® I have stashed behind my white board. My goal is to become familiar with it very soon and begin using it in the classroom with the upcoming school year. Lastly, I expect to be involved in continuing education and staff development that supports my district’s desire to keep up with technological advances in education.
When I look back to the year 1990, and my introduction to education by means of undergraduate studies at the University of Southern California, I can’t recall any talk about technology. Although there may have been some discussion about possible advances in this area, it was not impressive enough to remain on my mind. Thus, I recall learning how to deliver classroom instruction and meet the needs of the diverse communities of Southern California using methods such as SDAIE, Collaborative Groups, etc. It wasn’t until one decade later, while completing my fifth year for my preliminary credential, that technology, and the use of software in the classroom, received its own class. Another five plus years later and another “computers in education” class is added to the courses required to clear my credential in California. This is confirmation that education is becoming technology based, and thus it isn’t hard to predict that classrooms will continue to grow to accommodate the hardware and software needs of the changing curriculum. The impact this has on me now and in the future, is a personal and necessary drive to keep abreast of the advances in technology. My job and my future in education are strongly dependent on my ability to grow with the innovation of the times. Computers in education and the technology that goes along with it is the unrelenting innovation of the decade.
Hemet Unified School District (2006). Hemet unified school district district technology plan. Retrieved March 29, 2009, from http://www.hemetusd.k12.ca.us/business/technlgy/techinfo/0609mstr.pdf