Tablets, laptops and interactive whiteboards have recently made their way to the classroom, becoming common teaching aids. English schools alone have spent more than £1.4 billion on state-of-the-art devices in the past three years. The vast majority of these devices, though, lay unused locked in cupboards. Schools have found it difficult to adapt 21st century technologies into their teaching programs that originate in the previous century.
No doubt there’s great potential and promise in incorporating technologies into classrooms, says the latest report from National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta). But the main aspect of the technological improvement is not about purchasing every latest device, but about encouraging a fundamental and permanent change in teaching methods, researchers say. In this respect, many schools and teachers have a lot to learn.
In recent years, the hype around technology pushed aside modernization of teaching and learning practices. In terms of the education field, a tablet is not really an innovation, but just a new way to take notes. The education system requires deep changes to be able to utilize such a gadget. There are successful examples from all over the world which prove the worth of it.
Malaysia with its Smart School Policy is a vital example of decreasing the importance of working with textbooks in classrooms, in exchange for putting emphasis on strong communication between learners (who assess their own work), using Internet sources and multimedia.
Last year, the South Korean ministry of education announced its plans to phase out printed textbooks from schools by 2015. The ambitious project is followed by the “Smart Education” scheme, which includes the creation of a cloud computing network to allow students to access digital textbooks and store their homework with the use of any web-enabled device. It is also planned to introduce online classes on a large scale.
Decoding Learning, the Nesta study, identifies several areas of education that need urgent improvements. For example, the way children approach learning should be changed by encouraging them to think beyond the classroom and look for applications of the things they have learnt. Also, technology-supported innovations in social learning and assessment tools, as well as new practicing techniques for kids, would be greatly welcomed.
The latest devices that schools already have is a great start. But schools need to understand that these shiny new gadgets are merely tools, and both teachers and pupils must be trained to use them properly.
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