As technology progresses, so does its use in education. Despite cuts in educational funding, students who have access to devices like laptops, smartphones and e-readers are teaching themselves to be tech-savvy. And teachers and school administrations are finding innovative and cost effective ways to take advantage of developments in technology. In North Carolina for example, school cafeterias are using a Facebook application that allows parents to monitor their children’s nutrition intake. There may even be a technology trickle-down from universities into public schools. Pennsylvania’s Seton Hill University is equipping incoming students with iPads. Accessing e-textbooks could be much cheaper and more sustainable than buying multiple heavy textbooks to lug around. Computers, projectors and interactive whiteboards and televisions have combined to create a classroom in which the world is quite literally at a student’s fingertips.
Still, teachers and schools canonly do so much—budgets keep shrinking and class sizes keep growing. Detroit, for example is facing a $347,000,000 deficit with high school class sizes nearing sixty students. The struggle to provide quality public education to millions of students could be eased by embracing new platforms like social media, cloud computing, and other types of hands-on learning tools could create a new phaseineducation. And for students in financially anemic districts or rural areas, new teaching tools and online classes could be used to create a more fluid, portable classroom.
Education in the cloud
Social media has made it possible for people all over the world to connect with each other, and cloud computing provides the ability for individuals and businesses to store, share, and retrieve data regardless of their physical location. The debate on using social media in the classroom is still raging, but there are successes in both K-12 and higher education. Pairing cloud computing with social media could make it possible—even routine—for students and teachers separated by great distances to collaborate on projects and lessons.
Of course, skepticism about the plausibility of online teaching and learning will exist for some time. Despite the success of online and distance learning in higher education, K-12 schools have been slow or reluctant to embrace it. But the possibility of long-term cost effectiveness—and the opportunity to serve a large number of students, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds—should be enough to persuade teachers and administrators to consider how online teaching and learning could improve education for millions of students.
Building a mobile learning community
There’s no way to get around the fact that, at least at first, building a mobile/social network for teachers and students will be expensive. This kind of development in education would require buying millions of e-readers, computers and other hardware and software for both classrooms and individual students.
One possible advantage is that people no longer use computers as their primary device to access the Internet: a recent study revealed that a quarter of smartphone users rely on their phones to access the Internet. As devices become smaller and more powerful, mobile computing will become the new normal. Learning the proper way to implement technology into the classroom setting is vital in this new era of teaching. You can choose from a variety of online graduate programs in education to get the information you need to stay current with this evolving way of education.
Of course, smartphones wouldn’t be practical for teaching and learning, but tablets like the iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab could become the new school slate, similar to the student “desks” used in Orson Scott Card’s science fiction novel Ender’s Game. And just as software and computer companies like Dell and Microsoft offer discounts to schools and students, companies and businesses could partner with schools to provide discounts on e-readers and tablets. A community-private sector partnership like this could make it easier for school districts to provide their students with learning technology.
The logistics of creating a mobile teaching and learning community will require input and cooperation from all sides: government, businesses and companies, parents and students will have to work together on crafting regulations, laws and lesson plans built around a virtual classroom. Still, the possibility of balancing the inequality experienced by students in low-income or rural areas is worth exploring. Technology cannot solve all of our education problems, but it could give us a decent start.
Sarah Davis resides is a part time blogger from San Francisco, USA. Currently she is assisting Essay Hunters along with a bunch of other cool startups.