Opinion piece: The use of technology in education

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21.04.2020, by Fabienne Remer

What if technology is the new way of teaching?

Let’s start in 1800 where high school teacher James Pillans invented the first chalkboard. Smaller versions of the porcelain or painted wood board, which were easier to handle, were called slates. They made it possible for students to write things down and solve math problems. Around 1900 the slates were replaced by pencils and paper. This was a step forward because students were able to correct their work.

Look what happened in technology since 1900:

• In 1920 the audio-visual era slowly started

• The film strip projector was introduced in 1930

• Next in 1960, television had entered the classrooms

• By 1990, the computer showed up in classrooms to support teachers in classes

• Since 2000, the digital white boards and telephones were available in the classrooms.

Technical innovations follow each other faster and faster in the past 100 years. We can see the importance of digital technology in education today. One example is taking online classes at your university or planning a virtual meeting with students. Everything has changed since the outbreak of COVID-19 in December 2019. Most of us can no longer go to work or school. Fortunately, today we have technology that allows us (or most of us) to work and study from home. Since the COVID-19 virus appeared, data (LINK) has shown that 102 countries around the world have closed their schools. This means that 900 million children and young people are affected. That is why we need good online education, so that children and youth are not seriously delayed.

Technology to education’s rescue!

The COVID-19 virus first started in China and the virus was spread very quickly to other continents.In this situation technology can help us to keep up work. To keep up work schools started with online classes via Skype or other virtual meeting tools. Personally, I am currently working on my thesis and I cannot have face-to-face meetings, nor having interviews at the University. Fortunately, I can skype with my supervisor to keep writing my thesis. Imagine we had no internet: it would be very difficult to stay in touch. Due to the situation, it is not allowed to cross borders, visit family and friends, or physically meet colleagues, which means that calling or writing letters is the only alternative. That is why I think digital technology is important to keep the work going, but also to stay in touch with each other.

There are a number of good ways to spend time online. What I like during the corona crisis is that there are platforms that help children and youth keep on attending education. For example, you can listen to read out loud books on www.storylineonline.com. You can find popular picture books that professional actors read out loud. Also, www.dragonbox.com helps children to engage with colourful math games. There are options to keep up the work and keep children entertained and educated during these days. Some parents have doubts about homeschooling, because they fear the quality will not be the same as with a professional teacher. Parents with less background knowledge than a teacher might cause delay in the knowledge level of their children. Research shows that parents from different backgrounds can and have successfully taught their children at home. Not that long ago I wrote an article for The Creative Lab’s website. It was about the benefits of mixed reality in education. This article states that it will be important for digital technology to be part of education in the coming years. Certainly, there are plenty of people who don’t want to use technology. In this case, I would say that it is more of a challenge for school to use technology with more advantages than disadvantages. As we can see from the technological (r) evolution from, for example, having a Walkman to listen to music in the 80s to streaming music on a smartphone 24/7 now. Even if you do not want to use new technology, it will continue to grow. And so, technology in education will continue to develop.

The solution for education that uses technology is to combine it with a school program that engages children and students even more. I believe that technology has several alternative options for teaching children what you cannot learn from books. Of course, books are important to stimulate and learn reading, but I am convinced that children and students should also be more actively involved during lessons. This is what our interactive, multidisciplinary society demands to manage future challenges. I hope we can learn from the current situation. So should a similar outbreak occur, we can easily switch to online education.

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