Technology offers a ‘super powerful’ tool for educators, kids

/ 27 October 2012 / eunice

Jean Ruzicka, Park Rapids Enterprise, October 27, 2012 – Educators and members of the public were invited to “explore the possibilities” that await via technology in the classroom.

Sue Meyer, an education development executive with Apple computers, told the audience of Park Rapids teachers and community members that society is on the brink of a new era. This is a “super powerful time for teachers,” given the expansion of mobile technology.

“We are raising the first generation of kids who expect technology,” she said, pointing out society’s proclivity for the devices.

It took 19 years for color television to be viewed by 10 million people. Three million iPads were sold in three days when they debuted, she said.

“Technology has been an additive, not transformative,” Meyer said. “We need to change that. That will be a decision point. We can’t teach lessons the same way and expect to see change.”

Meyer reviewed recent trends in technology, noting sales of personal computers are down this year while mobile device sales are on the rise.

“Experts say in 2013 there will be more Internet connections made via mobile devices than on PCs. That’s a huge impact.”

Kids, she pointed out, see themselves as content creators, not just users. Meyer cited a school in New York that sought to devise a remedial math program, “using computers to see what kids need.”

An “interest inventory” was conducted and the computer “crunched it for individual learning prescriptions.

“Computers,” she emphasized, “can customize learning. This will have huge ramifications for schools,” she predicts of “personalization of learning.”

“Gamification” is another technological trend that’s emerging. Principles from game design can be used in lesson patterns, employing incremental levels leading to mastery, achievement badges and leader boards – with kids facing little or no consequence for failure.

She cited Fantasy Congress where students assemble a team of legislators, choosing both Representatives and Senators to populate their rosters. Legislators are awarded points for introducing bills, having bills pass out of committee, and for getting bills passed in each of the houses of Congress. Extra points are awarded if the president signs the bill into law.

Students delve into the inner-workings of the legislative process, and come away with a deeper understanding of just what it is, exactly, that our elected representatives do in Washington.

Pocket Law Firm is Sandra Day O’Connor’s free iCivics app that is designed to teach about the Constitution.

In the game, the user is in charge of a law firm and must “match” the clients to the lawyers who can best fight for their rights.

By earning points, the user can hire more lawyers, and buy ads and furniture for the firm.  As lawyers win trials, they develop more experience, and can help with additional constitutional rights.

“Today’s kids are different learners than in the past,” Meyer emphasized. “They are millennial learners who’ve been raised with technology. That’s what makes them different. They are digital natives who identify with technology. It defines their generation.”

The tech savvy kids are social and collaborative learners and experiential and exploratory.

“They are motivated differently, more altruistic,” she said.

A survey conducted to determine “what students want from school” found they aspire to work with interactive technology.

Kids want teachers to continue as mentors. “Technology doesn’t eliminate the need for teachers, but a teacher’s role changes,” Meyer said. “Kids want learning to be interesting, they want choice and control over projects,” the survey found.

“And they want to do real and relevant work. Kids know homework is artificial. If teachers can use technology to make work real, it’s very powerful,” Meyer emphasized.

“Digital learning is a paradigm shift in education,” she said.

Meyer cited iTunes U as a free depository of educational content for iPads. “It’s the world’s largest repository of quality education content,” she said of the app that allows teachers – from kindergarten to college professors – to create their own courses for the iPad. It’s available in 90 countries with nearly 1,000 content providers.

“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob children of tomorrow,” she reminded her audience, quoting American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer John Dewey.