interactive whiteboard, technological classroom
AP Photo/Axel Heimken

The Rise of the High-Tech Classroom

August 17, 2010 06:30 AM
by Anita Gutierrez-Folch
Classrooms around the country are being updated to become technological havens for students, but some wonder whether technology is a real necessity for education.

Education Embraces Technology

Universities and colleges around Michigan are investing millions in classroom updates, hoping to “better connect faculty to students in a round-the-clock, wired world in which many of those students have grown up,” Robin Erb reports for the Detroit Free Press.

These advanced gadgets and resources are turning regular classrooms into “high-tech marvels—overhead projectors and grease pencils replaced by document cameras, handheld clickers, and interactive whiteboards,” Erb explains. Most teachers see these upgrades as an opportunity to better communicate with students, speaking their language and learning about the world children and teenagers live in now.

The influx of technology has also spread to the K-12 classroom, with interactive whiteboards and presentations taking prominence in many schools. “Rather than being fed information like their parents once were, students have learned to explore and research, even teach each other,” the Detroit Free Press explains.

Forsyth Central High School in Cumming, Ga., began implementing interactive whiteboards and other technological gadgets in 2007, Michelle R. Davis reported for Education Week’s Digital Directions. “They would be bored to tears if it was just me standing up in front of them lecturing,” Crystal B. Corn, a Spanish teacher, told Education Week. “This is their native language. They speak technology.”

In 2008, the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School in Boston also joined the trend of technology in the classroom by launching a program to equip 650 students with Apple laptops. According to educational blogger Larry Cuban, “The computers follow students' varied achievement levels giving teachers the chance to fit their teaching to differences among students.” This technological upgrade also caters to parents, who can “chat with teachers on instant messaging software and talk about both students strengths and weaknesses,” he explains in his blog Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice.

“A lot of this is us catching up with the students and what they're bringing to us,” Michael Reuter, director of technology operations at Central Michigan University, told the Detroit Free Press. Students “live a networked world,” he adds. “Ours was noninteractive. Their world is fundamentally different than ours.”

Opinion & Analysis: Is technology a necessity for education?

Although technology can be greatly beneficial as an academic tool for both teachers and students, some maintain that it’s overrated, and even serves as a crutch for teachers. Dean Jose Bowen of Southern Methodist University in Dallas took a radical approach: He banned technology from lecture halls and “challenged staff instead to ‘teach naked,’ as in, without computers in the classroom,” the Detroit Free Press reported.

Others caution that technology has a place in the classroom—provided it doesn’t attempt to replace good teaching or make up for poor academic performances. “[T]echnology has its limits and it still takes a skilled speaker to engage students,” Charles Parrish, political professor at Wayne State University, told the Detroit Free Press. “A good professor is a good professor," he added. “Socrates sat under trees and didn't have PowerPoint.”

Bob Moore, executive director of information technology for the Blue Valley school system in Overland Park, Kan., debated the universal application of interactive whiteboards in academic environments. “I question their ubiquitous application in schools,” he told Education Week. “I think you need to stop and look at any technology and ask whether it should blanket a school.”

Historical Context: A push for more technology in education

In June 2008, the One Giant Leap for Kids campaign tried to make sure presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama both put technology at the forefront of their education policies. The push came amid worries that American K-12 students are falling behind their counterparts in other countries.

Reference: Web Technology Guide

Podcasts, wikis, file-sharing and RSS feeds: They all may play a part in a high-tech, interactive classroom. Get up to speed with the latest in Web innovations with our Web Technology Guide.

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