While the shift to remote learning during the pandemic created numerous headaches for K-12 schools and colleges, it’s hard to imagine how most of them would have delivered any instruction were it not via technology. Most school decision makers seemingly flipped a switch overnight in an incredible commitment to their communities to deliver instruction remotely. Isn’t that better than just waiting out the pandemic?
And yet, not surprisingly, much of the conversation in education circles tends to focus on the pitfalls of technology. Does virtual learning really work? Are students spending too much time on screens? Are we becoming overly reliant on technology in the classroom?
It’s refreshing then, to come across articles like “Why Are Some Kids Thriving During Remote Learning?” or “Distance Learning: Boosting College-,Career-, and Life-Readiness" that celebrate the ways technology is enhancing education. Change can certainly be a catalyst for positivity and necessity always leads to innovation, so let’s reflect on some of the ways technology has positively shaped education:
- Unrestrained access to information- Pre-internet, schools were reliant on materials found in classrooms and libraries, limiting both learning and teaching. We take for granted that we can look up almost anything with access to the internet—but it’s a big deal.
- Increased flexibility- Technology gives students and teachers the ability to complete classwork when their schedules permit, in formats that work best for their situation.
- An increased ability to differentiate- With the wide array of resources technology provides, educators can individualize learning based on student needs rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
- Stronger student insights- Educators can monitor what sites students explore, what activities they gravitate towards, and what they read utilizing the reporting and tracking tools technology makes possible. Educators use this data to create personalized lessons and initiate meaningful conversations.
- No-limit collaborating- Technology means students and educators are no longer limited by geography and can collaborate with individuals who aren’t in their classroom.
- More ways to create content- Educators and students can use PowerPoint, Prezi, or Google Chat easily. With minimal training, they can create YouTube videos, TikToks, blog posts, or Podcasts. The plethora of content creation tools allows more differentiated learning.
- Changed role of educators- Technology has evolved the role of the teacher into collaborator and/or facilitator rather than someone who stands at the front of the classroom and teaches. Educators guide students through exploration and learning, rather than simply feeding them information.
Technology has profoundly shaped how education has evolved and will continue to shape education’s evolution. There’s no doubt that educators need to be cognizant of using technology in meaningful ways while remaining aware of potential pitfalls. It's also important to remember to celebrate the positive impact technology has had on education, especially in a post-internet era.
This is the fourth blog in our series “The Changing Role of Technology in Education.”