Saturday, January 19, 2013

Clearly too much technology for today's youth is a hot topic. Even Time Magazine is talking about it!

So where do we go for help?

The Association for Educational Communications and Technology has tons of useful tools to help teachers, parents, and students like me in the quest for the balance between old school and new technology.

Western Michigan University offers an entire master's program developed to help understand the benefits and usefulness of developing classroom and school use of technology.

Finally, a website called Teachability offers a forum for discussion, questions, and sharing between teachers about good use of technolgy, tech support, and other questions, concerns, or concepts linking teachers through the web.

While I sit on my laptop to finish my homework, I have no distractions around me. Pandora is no longer running, my phone is in the other room, and I am reading passages over again, sometimes out loud, to ensure maximum retention. Despite growing up in a technologically advanced world, I have had to characterize my learning style and make adjustments to my environment to help myself perform to the best of my abilities.

Unfortunately, many of today's youth do not have the will power or perhaps the know-how to commit to such an exclusive approach to learning and studying.

I can remember back to the time when my home did not come with a room designated for a computer, often called a den or office. I can remember a time when I was told to go play and it didn't mean picking up a controller. I can remember a time when my hands and fingers would cramp up from frantically writing a note to pass to my best friend between English and science, not because I was frantically texting underneath my desk so my professor wouldn't see me.

But the student's of today, the K-12 generation that knows nothing of Super Mario Brothers but instead Angry Birds and Call of Duty, have no idea how to power down the devices, curl up in a quiet place, and focus on things like homework with a textbook, paper and pencil, or reading a novel for sheer pleasure, turning pages that smell of an old dry library instead of clicking their way through a Kindle. After reading an online article by the NY Times, I was stunned to hear of students disregarding their GPAs to stay up late posting statuses on their Facebook, regaling "friends" of their daily routine.

Furthermore, teachers and principals claim that in order to reach these technologically crazed kids, the classroom must incorporate technology. Where did the lines get blurred from using technology as an exciting new way to impart information to only using technology just to get the kids interested?

My concerns for tomorrow's generation, as I venture off into the world of becoming a teacher, are that my students will have to process everything digitally. I foresee a time where Ipads will go home with students every night, containing all their textbook material, and they will submit their homework online straight from their device to mine. Perhaps the interaction between a teacher and student will become completely obsolete. I feel that it is the job of all parents and educators to develop a way to expose children to technology in a healthy way, rather than unloading all information in a digital manner.

That being said, I am aware of the ever growing industry of educational technology. I find it helpful that there are more interactive, clean, fun ways for students to display presentations that don't require cutting and gluing onto poster board. Also handy is the cost effectiveness; writing a blog or creating an online video are often free, and can be picked up anywhere that has Internet capability.

Interesting to me as well is the funding given to schools to help advance their technology. Offering grants to help build media centers is an amazing privilege public schools are given. I think that making educational technology available is a large obstacle the public schools face due to low funding, so it is nice to hear of the opportunities being given to help offset costs.

I hope to become more tech-savvy as I work my way through a technology course, but I also love hearing that college students still prefer textbooks to e-texts. Perhaps it is the fact that they are college students, and can remember the time when a book was just that, not something that could be downloaded and read on the go through a phone, tablet, or laptop. For me, I need the balance of both new and old, and I hope to be able to use both in my future classrooms in the most effective ways possible. I want students to be excited to flip through pages as well as scroll through screens.

I will continue to grow and develop my toolbox of ET tools, but as I do so I will be forced to think back to the AECT's definition, especially words like performance, appropriateness, and ethical practice. I appreciate having those guidelines in place so that when I am considering implementing technology I will have a sort of checklist before doing so.