While technology can present some challenges for educators, it can also be an invaluable tool both inside and outside of the classroom. Finding information about the negative effects of technology is easy. A quick Google search will present articles about distracted students texting during class, plagiarism, and of course the easy access to adult content.
Despite these potential threats, technology in education has the potential of acting as a great equalizer. Utilized correctly, the right technological platforms can allow students and teachers to connect and learn together regardless of the size, location, or financial well-being of the educational institution to which they belong.
In the not too distant past there were certain variables one could rely upon to determine if a school had the potential to be a good one. In order to attract high-quality teachers, schools needed to be well funded and located geographically in an area with a large enough pool of top-tier educators. This was the only way students could be exposed to the latest pedagogical methods, and to teachers who were trained and equipped to teach a variety of subject matters aimed at stimulating their young charges.
This meant a well-funded school located in a metropolis near universities and labs could target and recruit the types of teachers most likely to produce well-educated pupils. At the same time, a rural and underfunded school would have a very difficult time reaching, and hiring, these types of educators. While programs such as Teach for America have helped to place great teachers in these types of schools, the existing academic programs are a far cry from what is needed.
Technology, of course, does not provide a simple solution to these issues. First, technology is only a tool. Computers are machines. Sometimes we forget this, but the best technology-based resources are only as good as the people operating them. Take SmartBoards for example. This revolutionary invention transforms the traditional classroom blackboard into an interactive learning experience. The problem is that many teachers were never properly trained in how to use the equipment. Most SmartBoards currently hanging in classrooms are used as nothing more than traditional projection devices. Similarly, placing computers in front of our students opens a lot of new frontiers that not all schools and teachers are equipped to navigate.
What we are seeing now in the tech-ed industry, however, is the coming together of these two worlds in the best possible ways. The right platforms now exist – platforms with the best software and apps that can safely and seamlessly ensure that the content reaching students is the content we want our students to receive. Paired with educators who have been trained and now have a deep understanding of the technology, students can experience the best of both worlds.
These solutions are not just for underfunded or isolated schools. Imagine a school whose administrators want to give a handful of qualified students high-level Hebrew or Spanish lessons. They could do their best to find local teachers, and may or may not find someone suitable. Or they could use a proven online program and connect the students with teachers in Israel or Spain and provide students with a program infused with culture taught by a fully qualified teacher, at a fraction of the cost.
Another possibility for such an application involves allowing unorthodox subjects to be taught in regular schools. Take 3D Design: In addition to conveying important knowledge to the next generation of students, this type of course could be valuable in career development and developing future interests. Finding teachers able to give such a course in the middle of the school day is obviously challenging. Using online teaching platforms, worldwide experts can be recruited to teach these important lessons to any school, anywhere.
Advancements in technology have presented our society with numerous challenges. Our job as teachers is to show students how these tools can be used productively. We are preparing our students to function in a world where technology is spreading at a rapid pace. This is why we, as educators, are obligated to put to put this progress to the best possible use.
Now is the time to take advantage of this equilibrium to ensure that these opportunities are accessible to as many as possible. It is within our reach to use technology to “flatten the world” and provide students, wherever they may be, with the educational opportunities they deserve.