I discovered this morning that I was, in fact, out of printer paper! So this will have to do for now =)

 

Aaron Elfering

Hist. 381

12/7/2012

Technology in the Classroom: A Digital Frontier

            Reflecting upon my experiences with educational technology, both in theory and in practice, I believe that we are in the midst of a major revolution in this field. Over the past semester, I have been introduced to a plethora of technology aids, resources, and tools that even I never suspected to exist. Technology can be made to be a great asset in any classroom, both as a motivational aid and a teaching tool to help students succeed. The realms of technology in the classroom have expanded far beyond mere word processing and basic presentations with images, and technology is now a prime way to motivate students. Now, those same programs used for simple tasks are capable of so much more. For example, instead of merely creating a linear PowerPoint presentation, teachers can use the Kiosk features of the program to create interactive, non-linear activities for students such as Jeopardy or Hollywood Squares for use during lessons. Video games, before used only for children’s entertainment, now can be learning tools instead with a proper introduction. For example, strategy games created about the civil war can be used as instructional tools when describing the lives of soldiers during the conflict or other related topics. By using technology in this fashion, students can become more engaged in instruction and achieve a more substantive learning experience.

Perhaps my favorite use of technology over the past semester has been our use and discussion of GIS oriented tools. I’ve been acquainted with these types of tools for a long time now but never cease to be amazed by the potential that lies in GIS based learning and technology. Stretching far beyond dinking around with google earth, I was fairly excited to get to incorporate this kind of technology into our grant proposals and discuss the huge potential that this sort of technology can bring to the class room.

One of the things I find most interesting about technology is that, for the most part, users are able to use many different kinds of technology in conjunction with the other to create/present information in ways that many people might not think possible. It was great to see this same effect occur first hand in class with each project/study area. It’s nice to know that I could combine GIS technologies along with some augmented reality (QR codes, video reporting etc.) and analyze through copious amounts of big data and primary sources to create one killer wiki page or even a large scale grant proposal. Ultimately there just don’t seem to be many classes I’ve taken where towards the end I felt that I could use each project or area of study in a practical, impressive manner.

The fact that students were encouraged to use any technology available to them felt very refreshing and in my opinion, access to smart phones, tablets and laptops being openly encouraged seemed to make for less distraction for students. It is my hope that other courses will start to step away from the idea that these devices are taboo in the classroom. While I personally stand by the use of technology in the classroom due to its seemingly limitless potential, I feel like it’s important to note that if technology is to be implemented heavily into the educational world, it is crucial that it is used to foster a more encouraging, interesting and creative learning environment rather than being used to homogenize education and allow for lazier teaching methods; the focus must remain on the student and in many cases, the classroom will still play a vital role.

 

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