Technology in the Classroom

Technology is revolutionizing the way Americans communicate and conduct business; yet, it has been slow to really take foot in our schools' curriculums. Up until recently, technology has been introduced to students as an elective versus a complete integration and redefining of the way students are taught. The fact of the matter is, today, children are growing up in a world much different from what their parents and grandparents experienced. It is a world of computers, software, and wireless access to information on-the-fly. It is a world that requires a different set of skills to succeed; thus, it may be worth your while to investigate the role technology plays in your child's schooling.

Photographer: Bermix Studio | Source: Unsplash

Studies show that the use of technology in the classroom is highly beneficial to students and teachers. Not only does it prepare students for the “real world,” it improves many skills that might not otherwise be fully cultivated. Because technology is so highly valued in America, students that become familiar and quite good at using it feel a sense of accomplishment, which improves self-esteem. When using technology, students are more likely to share their experiences with other students, promoting peer-to-peer tutoring and reducing the pressure teachers feel when being the only source of student assistance. In addition, students learn that there are numerous ways to solve problems and identify with how what they are learning actually applies to life outside of school.

Of course, schools are limited by time and money, making it difficult to introduce anything new, especially expensive technologies that need constant maintenance and upgrades. However, if schools look at their overall program and revaluate how to accomplish the same tasks while utilizing technology, there may be more room to maneuver than originally thought. A parent's best bet is to figure out how open the school is to change and how actively they are perusing these changes. Thus, when the opportunities arise to incorporate technology, the school will be more likely to embrace them.

Following are a list of questions that may be helpful in evaluating the technology initiatives at your child's school:

  • Is the use of technology in the classroom a school policy or an individual decision made by the teacher?
  • What computer and technology skills are teachers expected to know?
  • Are teachers provided training on popular and new technologies on a regular basis?
  • What type of projects will my child be required to complete that promote the use of technology?
  • Does the school have a computer lab or does each class have a single computer students are expected to share?
  • What precautions are taken to ensure student safety when surfing the Web?

While it is important for schools to have an open mind about the use of technology in the classroom, parents need to support the efforts made by the school. Ask your child's teacher and principal about the roadblocks and challenges they face in implementing the changes that would encourage the use of technology. There may be some things you can do on your end to spread up the process, be it educating other parents on the issue, donating money, or expressing your concerns to the school superintendent. Whatever you do, stay realistic about your expectations and keep the lines of communication open.

Note: This content was curated from third parties.

Review: How to live before you die

Speaker: Steve Jobs
Stanford University
Date: June 2005
Location: Stanford University

Description from TED website:
TED Editor’s note: This video is a TED “Best of the Web” pick, featuring a remarkable idea freely available on the internet.

At his Stanford University commencement speech, Steve Jobs, CEO, and co-founder of Apple and Pixar, urges us to pursue our dreams and see the opportunities in life's setbacks — including death itself.

Select the image to go to the actual video.

My Review / Notes / Thoughts

I know, I know… I’ve missed a few weeks of doing these reviews… but this is a great one to pick back up with!

In this graduation speech, Steve Jobs focused on three life stories that brought out three specific “points” that he wanted to leave the graduates with to ponder.

#1 – Connecting the Dots

While he didn’t graduate from college, he did benefit immensely from his college experiences. He talks about taking a calligraphy course that taught him about serif and sans serif fonts, and how that knowledge became useful 10 years later when developing the Mac.

Looking back on my past 20 years of work experience, I can also see how earlier experiences have connected to put me in a place to be successful in my own career.

As he states in this talk, you can only see how the dots connect when you look back. This means as you move forward in life, you have to trust that you are making decisions that will have meaning and “connect” in the future … even if the future you think will occur isn’t what actually occurs (as in my own case).

Your turn to reflect: Looking back on your life, what dots do you see that have connected to place you where you are now?

#2 – Love & Loss

Steve talks about how he was fired from Apple, and that while that seems like a horrendous loss… it was actually a blessing in disguise. Because he was no longer burdened by the pressures that weighed on him in the leadership position at Apple, he was able to enter a new phase. This new phase allowed him time to “start over” … remembering what it was like, the ups and downs, and so on. He got to be creative again and was able to establish other companies! The best part of it all was that he found his wife through the process.

As he talks, he reiterates the fact that he was focused on doing what he loved … not settling for anything less. He says that this will help you be truly satisfied, doing what you believe is great work.

Personally, I can say that I love the job that I started in September 2020. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time. I feel like I’m doing great work! And I love how he says that, as with any relationship, it will get better and better as the years go by… and while it’s only been a year, I can say that is definitely getting better and more enjoyable.

Your turn to reflect: Do you love what you do? Have you settled in your career? What do you believe is great work? If you aren’t doing it now, start making a plan to get yourself to where you want to be!

#3 – Death

A bit of a morbid topic, and one that we often try to avoid, Steve Jobs brings it to the forefront and suggests that keeping death in mind all the time is one of the best ways to help you live your best and fullest life. He talks about his experience with pancreatic cancer and how that it made him think about death even more so than prior. Looking into the mirror each morning, he would ask himself something like “Is what I’m about to do what I want to be doing if this were my last day alive?”

It’s a powerful thought. It’s an interesting way to help you put your “to-dos” into perspective.

Our turn to reflect: Think about the priority items that you’re rushing to do, then ask yourself, “If this were my last day on earth, is this really a priority?” If you re-evaluate your priorities in such a way, how much of a change would it make in your day-to-day life? If you did this for a month, what type of change would you see at the end of that month?

There is a lot to unpack from his less than fifteen-minute speech. I believe that I only scratched the surface. I certainly believe that this is a video everyone should watch and reflect upon. It would be great for high schoolers to do as they prepare to venture out into adulthood. It would be great for new college students as they prepare to begin their higher ed academic career. What do you think? How might you incorporate this video into your curriculum to engage and inspire students?

Until next time … live long, life-learner!

Review: A love letter to realism in a time of grief

Speaker: Mark Pollock and Simone George
Date: April 2018
Location: Vancouver, BX

Description from TED website:
When faced with life’s toughest circumstances, how should we respond: as an optimist, a realist, or something else? In an unforgettable talk, explorer Mark Pollock and human rights lawyer Simone George explore the tension between acceptance and hope in times of grief — and share the groundbreaking work they’re undertaking to cure paralysis.

Select the image to go to the actual video.

My Review / Notes / Thoughts

This is a very powerful message presenting in this talk. It is a story of resiliency and persistence, along with optimism and realism. How many people do you know who hit a roadblock in their life and they just stop and live there? Mark and Simone hit a major roadblock in their lives when Mark fell from a third-story window and was paralyzed from the waist down. If this was you or someone you loved, would you have just accepted it and tried to muddle through life however you could? Or would you follow Mark and Simone’s path through the raging waters of grief?

I believe this talk could be used in a multitude of ways, with a variety of fields of study. First-year students would benefit from the talk by learning about the power of resiliency and persistence. Students majoring in fields such as psychology and physical therapy can also benefit from this talk … learning how to temper hope so that people can hold on to that hope despite how long it might take for any improvements to occur … or despite any setbacks.

While a paper could be a way for students to process this talk, I think a discussion forum would be a much stronger method … as it would give students the opportunity to process their own thoughts as well as listen to and respond to their classmates’ thoughts.

What majors fields of study do you think this talk lends itself to? Do you see any other ways for incorporating this talk into your curriculum?

Until next time … live long, life-learner!

Review: The human skills we need in an unpredictable world

Speaker: Margaret Heffernan
TEDSummit 2019
Date: July 2019
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland

Description from TED website:
The more we rely on technology to make us efficient, the fewer skills we have to confront the unexpected says writer and entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan. She shares why we need less tech and more messy human skills — imagination, humility, bravery — to solve problems in business, government, and life in an unpredictable age. “We are brave enough to invent things we’ve never seen before,” she says. “We can make any future we choose.”

Select the image to go to the actual video.

My Review / Notes / Thoughts

“The unexpected is becoming the norm.”

How timely her talk was, considering it was given just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. We can all learn a lot from her talk. But here are some of the bits I picked up from it that I want to share with you.

In the past, we had “just in time” management… now, she recommends that one of the skills we have “just in case” management. We can’t always plan for what’s coming because we don’t know when, where, or what. But we can be prepared… it’s not necessarily efficient, but robust preparedness provides us with options when something does eventually happen.

The skills she lists that we need in this new “norm” are:

  • Preparedness
  • Coalition-Building
  • Imagination
  • Experiments
  • Bravery

These are not skills that we typically teach in the education system, but perhaps we need to conduct some ‘experiments’ and work on developing these skills in the lives of those we have been tasked with educating.

One way of utilizing this talk would be on a faculty/instructor in-service day. A session could start with this talk, then have the participants break up into groups and brainstorm ways to build these skills in their students. After a while, have the groups come back and give a report to the rest of the participants so everyone can share the ideas that were generated.

I certainly can see this talk being used in classes as well, especially with first-year college students. Have the students watch the video and then either participate in a group discussion or perhaps write a paper or journal on ways they could develop these skills in themselves and others.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree that these skills are important for us to develop in our young people? How would you go about implementing this talk into an engaging student assignment? How might you go about developing the actual skills in your students?

Until next time … live long, life-learner!

Review: Where good ideas come from

Speaker: Steven Johnson
TEDGlobal 2010
Date: July 2010
Location: Oxford, England

Description from TED website:
People often credit their ideas to individual “Eureka!” moments. But Steven Johnson shows how history tells a different story. His fascinating tour takes us from the “liquid networks” of London’s coffee houses to Charles Darwin’s long, slow hunch to today’s high-velocity web.

Select the image to go to the actual video.

My Review / Notes / Thoughts

This really is an interesting talk. We often think that we have those “eureka!” moments, but more often than not, we’ve been having our ideas for a long time. They brew in the recesses of our minds and finally congeal into a solid idea. Sometimes they have to comingle with other people’s budding ideas to form a complete idea.

He talks about the history of ideas and how the coffee shop played a pivotal role, as well as department meetings. I would suspect the concept of the “office water cooler” played much of a similar role.

I love the statement he made at the end of his talk:

“Chance favors the connected mind.”

He suggests that instead of trying to protect all of our ideas, we work with others to help complete those ideas. I think this talk could make for some interesting classroom discussions. How could you see using this talk to engage your students? What type of outcome do you anticipate?

Until next time … live long, life-learner!

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