Have you ever seen a young child with an iPad?
One of my interests besides music and technology revolves around the question of how we can revolutionize education by leveraging technology to directly influence and aid the student in learning. Though access to technology in the classroom has been nothing short of remarkable, it has been in the area of Internet access at the school and classroom level, as well as computer (and some device) availability. This access to technology in the US has been significantly funded by a tax on your cable bill, which has enabled schools in all socio-economic environments to connect and acquire hardware/software from traditional vendors such as local cable companies, Apple and Dell.
This access is really the first step in this process. It provides the infrastructure for technological learning, but to date it has been but a supporting player in the traditional classroom. That classroom still has some number of kids (likely too many), with one teacher who lectures, provides assignments, grading same and does some one-on-one work with individual students, and uses technology as a substitute for the library, typewriter, blackboard and media. The classroom is largely unchanged from the classroom that I attended at the primary, secondary, collegiate and post-graduate levels.
Have you ever seen a young child with an iPad, smart phone or other tablet? The engagement and the ease with which they learn is remarkable. I have a cousin who at less than two years old, not only knew how to use the iPad to view videos and play games, but also figured out how to order them from iTunes. A little scary, but enlightening.
The fact is that traditional educational methods do not leverage how children and adults really learn. We need to rethink how humans learn, then leverage technology to reinforce what works well, while eliminating what doesn’t. This is not only possible today, but crucial towards developing a population that can not only work in an increasingly knowledge-based market but also live enriched lives.
There is some very good news. There has been a lot experimentation and research being done in this area. The results have been very positive in some subjects, especially those that develop skills or require memorization,where selective repetition seems to be able to leverage how the human brain learns. There is an excellent article produced by Qualcomm (disclaimer: They provide cell technologies). There have been some setbacks, as is discussed in this NY Times article from 2011.
The net takeaway from the lessons to-date is that we shouldn’t be considering technology as a panacea for poorly educated US students, nor as a complete replacement of the traditional classroom. Rather, now that the infrastructure is largely in-place (at great cost), how do we integrate technology in an intelligent fashion to better educate our youth to help them be more competitive in the international work place as well to be better and more thoughtful citizens?