by Steven Madison
“The times they are a-changing.” The famous Bob Dylan song lyrics are just as true today as they were when he first sang them in February 1964. The times are always changing, and with the rate technology moves in today’s world, they are changing fast. Ten years ago a cell phone was still a luxury item. Today they are ubiquitous. Twenty years ago we were still listening to cassette tapes. Today, all of our music is digitalized, and nobody needs to go further than their computer screen to buy the newest (or the oldest) music on the market. The times, they are certainly a-changing.
One place where technology has quickly transformed the environment around it is the classroom. While computers were once a novelty, perhaps a 45-minute per week diversion, they are now found in classrooms across the country and put to use by students regularly and naturally. Not all schools have been fortunate enough to have the funding necessary to take advantage of all the available educational technology, but still, the technology even in those classrooms is usually significantly more advanced than most adults would remember from their childhoods.
Bringing technology into the classroom setting has a number of benefits for students and teachers alike. Instead of simply absorbing the information that is taught to them, technology often makes students take on more engaged roles, actively communicating, generating, manipulating, and studying the information instead of just passively listening. This can make a teacher’s job easier. Instead of being the constant focus of attention, she can become more of a facilitator, providing goals, guidelines and resources while the students actively participate.
Just like sports and art can provide outlets for students who are not as academically inclined, technology can provide new ways for students to express themselves outside of the traditional subjects of math, science, social studies, and language. Music programs, video editing, and photograph manipulation are often performed surprisingly well by young kids with innate senses of how the technology works. Some of these students, for example, wouldn’t be able to write an essay about the meaning of family, but using technology, they can make musical tracks, videos, or photographic collages that express those same emotions.
Of course, in today’s economic environment, American students can use every advantage they can get, and refining proper technical skills is the perfect place to start. One of the few industries that is constantly growing is information technology. The earlier children are introduced to these skills, the more comfortable they will be with them, and the more likely to master them later in life.
With all of these benefits that can be derived from having up-to-date technology in the classroom, many teachers are looking to upgrade the technology they have. In a recent survey by software developer Wondershare, 82% of teachers said they wanted a tablet device in their classroom, 73% said they wanted new teaching software, 72% said they would like laptops and 70% asked for interactive whiteboards. 98% of teachers said in the survey that technology assists them in engaging their students.
However, as any consumer knows, technology costs money. Nobody is handing out free tablets or laptops, not even to schools. Is your school district receiving enough funding to take advantage of all that technology has to offer? Talk to your elected officials and research candidates’ records in supporting funding for schools. Technology can do wonders for the education of students all over the country, but before the students can use it, the districts need to buy it. Ask your kids’ teachers how technology is being utilized in their classrooms, and consider donating your own technology or money to the cause.
About the Author: Steven Madison writes for educational websites, such as Anatomy Now. In his past, he has been a tutor, teacher, as well as a member of a school board.