With so many changes happening in educational technology, it’s particularly easy to get lost in all of the hype and hyperbole. New technology in education really isn’t the goal — instead, technology should be the tool or innovation we might use to more fully achieve the learning potential of our students — increasing their engagement and personal empowerment.
Let’s be clear — some technology is just plain useless. We need to be ever vigilant to not head down the rabbit hole of “shiny and new is always better”. The tech needs to make sense. It needs to make learning better, not just flashier.
I’m not an expert on ‘everything tech’ — probably never will be. But, you don’t have to be an expert in technology to ask some of the important questions:
What does this technology ENABLE that wasn’t possible without it?
Does it truly INNOVATE the learning or just replace something that is ‘less-techy’?
Can it provide greater ACCESS for some students that wasn’t possible before the tech?
In education, there have been some really interesting tech-advances — innovative tools that have the potential to empower students in some ways that we once thought were science fiction. For example, twenty years ago would we have thought that we could be speaking into our wrist-watches to search a world-wide database of content? Today technology has opened new access points for students, providing them new ways to connect, communicate and learn. And many of these tech advances will continue to become more user friendly, cheaper and applicable in education.
So, what’s new these days?
I thought I would share with you some interesting tech that is out there already — tools that I think could make a difference in how we teach and students learn. So, without further delay I present to you a short list of some pretty cool Ed Tech:
Video-streaming and Video-conferencing
- Not really a new tech, but now even better and easier to use — and it’s literally everywhere. Websites are popping up all over the internet allowing classrooms to stream video or video-conference with scientists, artists, musicians and others from around the world. How about checking out the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the International Space Station, Penguins and our Changing Icy World, or the United Nations? Seriously, search just about anything of interest and you can likely live-stream some video, take a virtual field-trip to the actual site or video-conference with someone who’s an expert in the field.
Written Output Device
- You probably don’t even know that your computer has a built-in voice prompting application — completely FREE to use. Windows Speech Recognition allows you to control your Windows-based computer with your own voice. Go the your Start menu and search “Windows Speech Recognition” and then follow the instructions. Yes, it’s neat, but it could also be a potential game-changer for those who need support to access their computer.
Virtual Reality is the Real Deal
- Several educational resource companies (such as Discovery Education) are using VR to open up the world in ways only imagined a few short years ago.
VR technology is SO good we feel like we are actually in a volcano, the Amazon rain forest, or outer space. By controlling our own actions we engage in the visual experience like never before — exponentially finding it more engaging than watching a film or video.
- If you already have a Google account you also have access to hundreds of Google apps from their Chrome Web Store. Launch the Google Chrome browser and search for Google Extensions. Hundreds of free apps are available, many with an educational focus — things like physical movement reminders, language translators, mindfulness activities, inspirational quotes, math applications, and homework organizers plus many, many more in dozens of categories. Some of these apps can make learning personal, meaningful and fun.
- So, this idea is less about the new tech, and more about what the available tech can do to meet the two needs of very different groups. What about connecting senior citizens who are craving increased social contact with ELL students needing to practice their English language skills? Two unique needs, now seamlessly both being met with the aid of video-chatting. Check out this 10 min video of this very solution happening in Chicago — make sure you have some tissues handy.
Technology as a Communication Tool Between Schools and Parents
- Freshgrade – Some of our Saanich teachers have been exploring with an assessment and reporting interface that has the potential to provide a more fluid communication with parents. This school district supported, optional e-portfolio platform is starting to find its way into our schools. Parents and teachers are appreciating the real-time, ongoing communication of student progress. Instead of a static report card every few months parents can see their children’s learning progress over time on a more regular basis in ways not possible just a short time ago.
This is just a sampling of the technology that’s out there and currently available. The amount of tech is almost limitless and at times overwhelming to review. However, we need to continue encouraging our teaching staff to try an innovative tool that might make a difference. It doesn’t have to be expensive — in fact, as you can see from the above examples many of these innovative tech advances are free. If it makes a difference in the learning for some of our students then it’s worth taking the chance to see if it works.
However, I clearly know that if there’s ever a lightsaber available, it will have an important educational purpose and we’ll be buying a few of them.