Almost as old as the classroom itself, the textbook has provided a means through which one teacher can deliver a standardized set of content to an entire room full of students. When it was created, it enabled teachers to focus more on a student’s grasp of the content, rather than the content itself. It was an innovative solution for the problems that arose when education transitioned from a teacher to student ratio of 1:1, closer to 20:1 or more students to teachers. In the present day, content delivery in the classroom has reached another watershed moment. In justifying the Obama Administration’s commitment to going completely digital within 5 years, American Secretary of Education Anne Duncan, poses this question, “Do we want kids walking around with 50-pound backpacks and every book in those backpacks costing 50, 60, 70 dollars and many of them being out of date? Or, do we want students walking around with a mobile device that has much more content than was even imaginable a couple years ago and can be constantly updated? I think it’s a very simple choice.” As technology brings the classroom into the future, it is poised to put the nail in the coffin for the traditional textbook publishing industry.
The Republic of India is geographically the 7th largest country in the world and the 2nd largest by population. Nearly one third of India’s 1.2 billion people are currently under the age of 14, which means the country has the largest youth population in the world. The immense task of effectively educating this population has become a recently invigorated project of the Indian government, who realizes that a proper education for their citizens will translate to improved economic and social development. Due to government measures, the number of out of school children decreased from over 25 million to just over 8 million between 2003 and 2009. While student enrollment in secondary school still tends to be low, elementary education has an enrollment rate of over 95 percent. Private schools also play a massive role in India’s education system, making up nearly 60% of the nations’ secondary school institutions. “While more modest in rural areas, the recent growth of private schooling in urban areas has been nothing short of massive, raising questions about growing inequality in educational opportunity.”
In getting to the brass tacks of any educational system, one of the most fundamental is also one of the most overlooked. As teaching has developed over the years, the lecture method has been incorporated into instruction so completely that, today, it feels as though it were more like a fact of education rather than a choice that educators are making. However, lecture methodology is merely one small part of instructional tools that are available to educators and, studies show, one of the least effective in promoting student motivation, comprehension, and retention.
When it comes to our education system, the concept of reform figures prominently into any current dialogue on the subject. The prevailing sense among those discussing education is that that the modern system is in serious need of an overhaul. However, some of the most marked resistance to recent policy reform has sprung from a somewhat surprising source – teachers themselves. While the resistance coming from teachers seems surprising at first, given that they stand to benefit from an education system that is overall improved, it makes sense as you begin to look at the ways in which reform is being implemented. The overall course of modern policy reform identifies teacher inefficacy as a major contributing factor to the diminished quality of education. “Revamping the makeup of the teaching profession through tweaks such as altering tenure and teacher evaluations has become a policy debate-du-jour, one that has riled many a state house in recent years.” Continue reading
When looking toward the future of education and technology, one of the largest emergent topics for discussion is the integration of technology into the student assessment process. The method by which student knowledge and progress should be assessed is one of the most contentious among educators. What role should assessment play in the educational process? Which method of assessment gives the clearest picture of how well students have comprehended material? How should the assessment process be coordinated to give a clear picture of student understanding while at the same time maintaining a grading process that is logistically feasible? Evaluation of students typically occurs on two levels; the first is the day-to-day evaluation of student comprehension, while the other is the actual examination process. Education technology (edtech) is able to assist educators on both of these distinct levels.
Before the advent of the public education system, student motivation was not a big concern for educators. In order to learn, students actually had to seek out their education in the form of tutoring or apprenticeship. Logically, any student who would take the time and effort to do so already had a great deal of motivation to learn their chosen subject. As modern policy makers introduced compulsory education as well as a predetermined mandatory curriculum, student’s motivation became one of the most critical issues facing modern educators. Whereas before, students chose when and what they learned, the modern education system forces kids to learn about subjects toward which they may have no natural inclination. Continue reading
There is a growing trend of fear and anxiety among educators, regarding the role educational technology will play in the future of their profession. This stems from the perception that technology is being sought out and used to replace teachers altogether, enabling school systems to function entirely without them. In a recent post by popular education blogger Tim Walker, he articulates this view, expressing the fear that the “‘miracle of technology’ [will be used] to cut teachers’ jobs, salaries, and increase class size.” Believing that technology, at its core, is unable to adapt to the individual learning styles of students, underpins his argument that the “benefits new technology may bring would then be overshadowed by the damage done to student learning.” The concern that he, teachers, and the unions that represent them share is the fear that technology will be employed by lawmakers as a cheap way to bring relief to budgetary bottom lines, supplanting human teachers altogether – a real fear for many teachers around the world. This must be addressed by those in the education technology field before it solidifies as the prevailing opinion among teachers about edtech.
In its earliest forms, the endeavor of education was created on unequal terms. Education functionally developed as a means to maintain social class – the upper class education was focused on academics while the lower class education was geared toward the acquisition of skills for a specific trade. Since that time, one of the great narratives of education has been the gradual but progressive turn toward an equal education for all – the ultimate goal being an education system free from the strictures of class distinction. In a battle that is far from over technology has come to play a critical role in modern times. The rise of education technology provides key opportunities for undermining the inequality inherent in the system while at the same time highlighting some of the worst incidences of that inequality. Continue reading
Last Tuesday on Capitol Hill, President Barack Obama delivered the penultimate State of the Union of his first term. In previous editions of this historic annual speech, education has been somewhat overshadowed by other domestic issues such as the ailing economy and the fate of the middle class. However, scholastic issues figured largely into Tuesday’s speech, as a range of shortcomings in education were connected with the untapped potential of the American workforce – the products of a flawed education system. Sara Ferguson, a teacher from Pennslyvania who was invited to attend the speech, was pleased to see that Obama made the connection between education and the United States’ economic issues. “We need more politicians to realize that quality public education is the way to economic recovery.” Continue reading