Friday, March 27, 2009

Power Down - Are We Missing Out by Limiting Technology

An interesting article came out today from Education Week regarding missed opportunities to capitalize on Generation Y's technological learning skills. Essentially, the article laments the fact that most middle and high school students are asked to "power-down" their various technologies when upon entering the school building and classrooms.

The article offers up an interesting (and complex) question of the balance between the new social emphasis of the Internet and other "web 2.0" tools and the classical classroom-based educational system. The entire text of the article is below:

Schools Seen as Inhibiting Student Tech. Use
By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

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Students are using personal technology tools more readily to study subject matter, collaborate with classmates, and complete assigments than they were several years ago, but they are generally asked to “power down” at school and abandon the electronic resources they rely on for learning outside of class, according to a survey of educators, parents, and teenagers.

Teachers, for the most part, are not taking advantage of the tools that middle and high school students have widely adopted for home and school purposes, according to the sixth annual report of the Speak Up National Research Project. Those students should be given a more formal role in determining how new technology—particularly mobile devices, such as smartphones, and Web 2.0 tools, like social-networking sites–can be tapped to improve schooling, a report on the survey findings suggests.

“Our nation’s students are in fact a ‘Digital Advance Team’ illuminating the path for how to leverage emerging technologies effectively for teaching and learning,” the report says.
Students, the report argues, are trendsetters in using technology in their personal lives and, more recently, to organize and complete schoolwork.

“Today’s students are early adopters and adapters of new technologies, creating new uses for a myriad of technology products to meet their sophisticated needs,” it says. “They can be predictors or at least harbingers of how technology could be used to transform education.”

Of course, many educators and learning experts warn against adopting new technologies in schools simply because students are adept at using those technologies. They say the primary goal of technology adoption for K-12 classrooms should be to enhance learning.

Selected findings from the extensive survey project were released March 24 by Project Tomorrow. More than 280,000 K-12 students across the country took part in the 2008 online poll, along with 28,000 teachers, 21,000 parents, and 3,000 administrators. The group will issue several follow-up reports later this year on specific topics, such as online learning. The reports will summarize survey findings related to those topics as well as information drawn from case studies and interviews.

“We’ve been polling students ... on how they are using technology for school work, but that’s not necessarily in school or directed by the teacher,” said Julie Evans, the chief executive officer of Project Tomorrow, the Irvine, Calif.-based organization that sponsors the annual survey “We see how creatively and innovatively students are taking the technology tools available for them and leveraging them for learning.”

Students Suggest Changes

Between the 2007 and the current survey, for example, there was a 150 percent jump in the proportion of students using Facebook and other social-networking sites to work with their peers on group projects for school.

Most of the high school students surveyed, however, do not believe that they are being well prepared for the technology demands of the marketplace. Large proportions of the middle and high school respondents say they are inhibited from using technology effectively in school, because of restrictions on computer time, blocks on access to Web sites, or a prohibition against mobile devices.

The findings may be particularly useful this year, Ms. Evans said, given that schools and districts will be looking for effective ways to use federal stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to expand the use of technology in schools.

The report outlines some of the suggestions student participants have offered for improving the use of educational technology in their schools, including: greater access to Web tools and lessons in electronic formats, such as PowerPoint presentations and podcasts; use of educational games and simulations; and links to videoconferences from subject-area experts.

“For most students,” the report concludes, “technology is an integral part of their toolkit for participating in the world.”

Vol. 28, Issue 27

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