Saturday, July 26, 2008

Technology in education

My main criticism of technology in the classroom is that good uses of technology are few and far between. My secondary criticism is that support for hardware (computer/printer/network/projector/smartboard) and software(installation/functionality) in schools is reasonably poor reducing the required success rate well below 100%.

Here are some of my favourite issues:

  • Smartboards where lag between writing and displaying occurs or light levels need to be too low for students to be able to write without damaging their eyes.
  • Use of preprepared powerpoint presentations that direct students down a path with little concern for what they are learning - eg. with little interactivity.
  • Research time in libraries where learning time is spent preventing student access to inappropriate websites, online games, Facebook and mySpace - especially where students are clearly unable to research online efficiently when ontask.
  • Anything with the words 'intranet' or 'extranet' that students try to use as excuses for not handing in work due to technology or internet access failure.
  • Not having direct access (as a teacher) to web proxy logs for students during class.
  • Issues with students not having funds to print.
There are some great and time effective uses of IT in a normal classroom:

  • Graphics calculators and teaching statistics/quadratics/algebra/trigonometry
  • Teaching of area and bird's eye view using sites such as
  • Report writing in Word at the end of a project/assignment using preset templates
  • Brainstorming using Powerpoint and Inspiration
  • Exploring critical paths using Gannt charts in MSProject
  • Flow charts in Visio

There are some great uses of IT in an extension class I have experienced with students specifically interested in computer game design:

  • Teaching 2D geometry/linear algebra with Java (computer game design)
  • Teaching 3D geometry with Blender (animation)
  • Exploring mathematical modelling with The Sims/Civilisation/SimCity

The thing to note about effective use of IT is that it is directed at specialised tasks with either highly motivated(extension) students or students that are given limited opportunities for distraction (such as with a graphics calculator). Punitive action needs to be restricted as removing access from students(eg. stopping internet access) will hamper progress in other classes. If something can be done faster without IT, we should not use IT purely for the fallback 'but there's higher student motivation', 'it promotes reuse of materials', 'it produces materials that can be provided to absent students'. We should simply use our whiteboards/paper handouts and not change where change has a lower net learning output.

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